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How to Enroll in the Right CDL Driving School near East Florence Alabama

East Florence Alabama tractor trailer hauling cargoCongratulations 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 fantasy to hit the open road while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to receive the proper training by picking 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 final selection. Location will certainly be important, especially if you need to commute from your East Florence home. The cost will also be important, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the best method to make sure you'll get the appropriate training. Just remember, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge 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 select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.

Which CDL Will You Require?

East Florence Alabama tractor trailer traveling down highway

In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within East Florence AL and throughout the United States, a driver must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short explanations of the two classes.

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

How to Research a Truck Driver School

East Florence Alabama concrete mixer truck with patriotic paint job

When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of researching the East Florence AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other issues, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are several more factors that you should research while performing your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the East Florence AL area are accredited because of the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more typical and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given 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 curriculum and training will fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One clue to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not stay 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 first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are researching 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 instructors in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that insists it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most East Florence AL schools provide training courses that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.

How Good are the Teachers? As earlier stated, it's imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers might be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the best method is to check out the school and talk to the instructors in person. 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 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 operating a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time varies between schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the East Florence AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from certain truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive 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 having relationships with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to 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 starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the East Florence AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Classes Flexible? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short term, it's important that the East Florence AL school you choose offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.

Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few East Florence AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other East Florence AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be completed.

Find Out More About East Florence Truck Driving Training Schools

Choose the Best East Florence Truck Driver Training

Picking the right truck driving school is an important first step to beginning your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. However, you must get the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might want to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in East Florence Alabama.

 

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