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How to Enroll in the Best Trucking Classes near Calera Alabama

Calera Alabama tractor trailer hauling cargoCongratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Calera AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides good income and flexible work opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain factors that you'll need to examine prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Calera residence. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal means to make sure you'll receive the right training. Just remember, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?

Calera Alabama tractor trailer traveling down expressway

To drive commercial vehicles legally within Calera AL and throughout the USA, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short summaries for the 2 classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Several of the vehicles that drivers may be able to operate 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 needed to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater 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 need endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.

How to Evaluate a Trucking School

Calera Alabama cement truck with flag paint job

As soon as you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Calera AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other issues, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So below are some additional points that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Calera AL area are accredited due to the stringent 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 certain advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 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 training and curriculum will fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.

How Long in Operation? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of 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 provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.

How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the personal attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that insists it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Calera AL schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.

How Good are the Trainers? As earlier mentioned, it's important that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers might be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal approach is to visit the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also talk to some 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.

Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driver school will provide plenty of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no substitute for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time can vary among schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Calera AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining relationships with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Calera AL schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Classes Convenient? As previously noted, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Calera AL school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.

Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Calera AL employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Calera AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted.

Find Out More About Calera Truck Driver Training Schools

Choose the Right Calera Truck Driver Training

Selecting the ideal truck driver school is an essential first step to beginning your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must get the proper 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 look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be joining a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Calera Alabama.

 

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