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How to Decide on the Best Truck Driving School near Calera Alabama

Calera Alabama truck carrying cargoCongrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Calera AL. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to receive the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several variables that you'll want to think about before making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Calera residence. The cost will also be important, but choosing a school based only on price is not the best means to guarantee you'll obtain the appropriate education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.

Which CDL Will You Require?

Calera Alabama truck driving down expressway

To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Calera AL and throughout the USA, an operator must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief explanations for the two classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Some 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 might also require endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.

How to Assess a Trucking School

Calera Alabama cement truck with patriotic paint job

When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can begin the process of researching the Calera AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other factors, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are a few additional points that you should research while performing your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Calera AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, 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. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive lots of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 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 standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Operation? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Calera AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.

How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personalized instruction they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Calera AL schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Instructors? As earlier stated, it's imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers may be a little more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.

Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driving school will furnish ample driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time can vary 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. Check with the Calera AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get discounted or even free training from a number of truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having associations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Calera AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short term, it's important that the Calera AL school you select offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.

Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Calera AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Given? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Calera AL area vocational or trade 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 assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.

Learn More About Calera Trucking Schools

Choose the Right Calera CDL Training

Picking the right truck driver school is an important first step to beginning your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must get the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you might need to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent truck driver school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Calera Alabama.

 

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