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How to Pick the Best Truck Driving Classes near Fairfield Alabama

Fairfield Alabama tractor trailer hauling cargoCongrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Fairfield AL. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible work prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to get the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain variables that you'll need to consider prior to making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Fairfield residence. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based solely on price is not the best means to guarantee you'll get the right training. Don't forget, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the remainder 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 Should You Get?

Fairfield Alabama tractor trailer driving down road

To operate commercial vehicles legally within Fairfield AL and throughout the United States, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates 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 brief summaries of the two classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 needed to drive 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 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also need endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.

How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School

Fairfield Alabama cement mixer truck with patriotic paint job

As soon as you have determined which CDL you would like to pursue, you can start the process of assessing the Fairfield AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So following are a few additional factors that you should research while performing your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Fairfield AL area are accredited because of the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent 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. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 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 measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One indicator to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Fairfield 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 graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.

How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personalized instruction they will need. This is particularly 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 period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Fairfield AL schools provide training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Instructors? As already mentioned, it's important that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a little more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to check out the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.

Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, a great trucking school will provide sufficient driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time fluctuates among schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Fairfield AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.

Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to get 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 referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having affiliations 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 surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Fairfield AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Class Times Convenient? As previously noted, truck driving training is just one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the Fairfield AL school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while going to 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 acquired your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Fairfield AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Fairfield 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 examining have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.

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Choose the Right Fairfield CDL Training

Choosing the ideal trucking school is an essential first step to launching your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you may need to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving 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 decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be joining a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Fairfield Alabama.

 

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