How to Decide on the Right CDL Training School near Bessemer Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Bessemer AL. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible work prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to get the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are a number of variables that you'll need to examine before making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Bessemer home. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based solely on price is not the optimal way to ensure you'll receive the proper education. Don't forget, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Bessemer AL and throughout the United States, a driver needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short descriptions of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Several of the vehicles that operators may be able to drive with Class A licenses are:
- Interstate or Intrastate Tractor Trailers
- Trucks with Double or Triple Trailers
- Tanker Trucks
- Livestock Carriers
- Class B and Class C Vehicles
Class B CDL. A Class B CDL is required to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Several of the vehicles that operators may be qualified to drive with Class B licenses are:
- Tractor Trailers
- Dump Trucks
- Cement Mixers
- Large Buses
- Class C Vehicles
Both Class A and Class B CDLs may also require endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Research a Trucking School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can start the undertaking of researching the Bessemer AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other variables, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are some additional points that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the Bessemer AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more typical and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help measure the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Bessemer AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the following section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Bessemer AL schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As previously stated, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers might be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal approach is to check out the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driving school will provide sufficient driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time varies between schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Bessemer AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Bessemer AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As previously noted, truck driver training is just one to two months long. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Bessemer AL school you choose offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? As soon as you have received your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Bessemer AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Bessemer AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Best Bessemer Truck Driver Training
Choosing the ideal trucking school is a critical first step to launching your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. However, you must receive the proper training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might need to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Bessemer Alabama.