How to Pick the Right Trucking Classes near East Florence Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near East Florence AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible work prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to receive the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various variables that you'll want to consider prior to making your final selection. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your East Florence residence. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the best way to make certain you'll receive the appropriate education. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within East Florence AL and throughout the United States, an operator must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What differentiates 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 short descriptions of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed 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 needed to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more 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 may also need endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Research a CDL School
After you have decided which CDL you want to pursue, you can start the undertaking of researching the East Florence AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other issues, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are several additional factors that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the East Florence AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost to the schools. However, 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 a number of advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 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 satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top East Florence AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers 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 obtaining the personal attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that claims it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most East Florence AL schools offer training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As already stated, it's important that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors might be a little more subjective than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach 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 happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, a good trucking school will provide plenty of 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 methods, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time varies among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the East Florence AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having associations with a wide range of 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 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 only way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the East Florence AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As earlier mentioned, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it's imperative that the East Florence AL school you select offers 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 teacher should be prepared to devote 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 fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few East Florence AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other East Florence 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 assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Best East Florence CDL Training
Selecting the right truck driver school is an important first step to beginning your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. However, you must receive the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on cash or financing, you might want to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you receive your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in East Florence Alabama.