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How to Pick the Right CDL Driving Classes near Chelsea Alabama

Chelsea Alabama tractor trailer carrying cargoCongratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Chelsea AL. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to receive the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are a number of factors that you'll want to examine prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be important, especially if you need to commute from your Chelsea residence. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the optimal way to guarantee you'll get the right education. Just remember, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable 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? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?

Chelsea Alabama truck traveling down expressway

In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within Chelsea AL and throughout the United States, an operator must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will address 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). Following are brief descriptions for the two classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 Commercial Drivers License is required 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. A few 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 need endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.

How to Assess a Truck Driving School

Chelsea Alabama concrete truck with flag paint job

When you have decided which CDL you want to pursue, you can begin the process of researching the Chelsea AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other factors, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So below are some additional things that you need to research while conducting your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Chelsea AL area are accredited because of the stringent process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will meet the very high standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One indicator to help measure the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Chelsea AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.

How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the individual instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Chelsea AL schools provide training courses that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Instructors? As already stated, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a good trucking 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 operating a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no substitute for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although 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 Chelsea AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get discounted or even free training from some truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining associations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Chelsea AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. 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 accommodating than competing with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Classes Accessible? As earlier noted, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short term, it's important that the Chelsea AL school you select provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.

Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Chelsea AL employers hiring their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Chelsea AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.

Learn More About Chelsea Trucking Schools

Enroll in the Best Chelsea CDL Training

Selecting the right truck driver school is an important first step to starting 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 several options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must receive the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on money or financing, you may want 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 select an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you get your training, you will soon be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Chelsea Alabama.

 

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