How to Enroll in the Best Trucker Classes near Clanton Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Clanton AL. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's important to receive the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are certain variables that you'll want to think about before making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Clanton residence. The cost will also be important, but choosing a school based solely on price is not the best method to guarantee you'll obtain the appropriate education. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you choose 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 Should You Get?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within Clanton AL and throughout the United States, a driver must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short 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 more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also need endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Research a Truck Driver School
When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can start the process of researching the Clanton AL trucking schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other factors, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are a few more things that you should research while performing your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Clanton AL area are accredited because of the stringent process and cost 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. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get plenty 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 comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Clanton AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers 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 greater, then students will not be obtaining the individual 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 claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Clanton AL schools provide training courses that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously stated, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers may be a bit more subjective than other standards, and possibly the ideal method is to check out the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent trucking school will provide sufficient 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 simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time varies among schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Clanton AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get discounted or even free training from a number of trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Clanton AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As earlier noted, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the Clanton AL school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? The moment you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Clanton AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Clanton 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 assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.
Choose the Right Clanton CDL Training
Picking the right truck driver school is a critical first step to beginning your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets 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 drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may need to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent truck driver school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Clanton Alabama.