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How to Enroll in the Right CDL Driving School near Clay Alabama

Clay Alabama tractor trailer carrying cargoCongrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Clay AL. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research and have found that a career as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible job opportunities. Whatever 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 consider prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be important, especially if you need to commute from your Clay residence. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the ideal means to make certain you'll get the appropriate training. Just remember, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?

Clay Alabama truck driving down road

In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within Clay AL and throughout the USA, a driver needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that one can apply 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 address Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short descriptions for the two classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A CDL 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 needed 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 drivers may be qualified to operate 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 operate certain kinds of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.

How to Assess a Truck Driver School

Clay Alabama cement truck with patriotic paint job

When you have determined which CDL you want to pursue, you can begin the process of evaluating the Clay AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other issues, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So below are several additional points that you should research while performing your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Clay AL area are accredited due to the demanding 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 required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given lots of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.

How Long in Operation? One clue to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Clay AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.

How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should 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 be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personalized instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Clay AL schools provide training courses that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.

How Good are the Instructors? As already stated, it's essential that the instructors are trained 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 successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers might be a little more subjective than other standards, and possibly the best approach is to visit the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.

How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver school will furnish ample driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual 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 alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time varies among schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Clay AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.

Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get discounted or even free training from some trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified 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 affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Clay 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 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Class Times Accessible? As previously noted, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief term, it's important that the Clay AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to commit 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 obligations.

Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Clay AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Available? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Clay AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.

Learn More About Clay CDL Schools

Choose the Right Clay Truck Driver Training

Choosing the ideal truck driving school is an essential first step to launching your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that mold 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. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose 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 choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Clay Alabama.

 

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