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How to Select the Right CDL Training School near Clay Alabama

Clay Alabama tractor trailer hauling payloadCongrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Clay AL. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible work prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to receive the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several factors that you'll need to consider before making your final choice. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Clay home. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based solely on price is not the best means to ensure you'll receive the right education. Just remember, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.

Which CDL Will You Need?

Clay Alabama tractor trailer traveling down road

To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Clay AL and throughout the United States, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject 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 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 descriptions of the 2 classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 required to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more 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, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.

How to Evaluate a CDL School

Clay Alabama cement truck with flag paint job

After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can start the undertaking of researching the Clay AL trucking schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other factors, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are some more factors that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Clay AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive 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 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 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 normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Clay AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's track record is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.

How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personal 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 train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Clay AL schools offer training courses that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.

How Good are the Trainers? As earlier stated, it's important that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial 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 criteria, and possibly the best method is to check out the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also speak with some 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.

Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driving school will furnish 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 driving a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time varies between schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Clay AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to get discounted or even free training from certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining associations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Clay AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Classes Flexible? As previously mentioned, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief term, it's essential 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 difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.

Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Clay AL employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Clay AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.

Find Out More About Clay Trucker Classes

Enroll in the Right Clay CDL Training

Picking the ideal trucking school is a critical first step to beginning your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must get the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you may want to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose 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 no matter how you get your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Clay Alabama.

 

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