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How to Choose the Right CDL Training Classes near Florence Alabama

Florence Alabama tractor trailer carrying cargoCongratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Florence AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's important to receive the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several variables that you'll want to examine prior to making your final selection. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you have to commute from your Florence residence. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based solely on price is not the best way to make sure you'll get the appropriate education. Don't forget, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.

Which CDL Will You Need?

Florence Alabama tractor trailer traveling down expressway

In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within Florence AL and throughout the United States, an operator must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and 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 brief summaries of the two classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License 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. Some 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 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 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 may also require endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.

How to Research a Truck Driver School

Florence Alabama cement truck with patriotic paint job

When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Florence AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, cost and location will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other variables, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So following are a few more points that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Florence AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace 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 recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Operation? One clue to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Florence AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.

How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors in the next section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personalized attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Florence AL schools provide training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's important that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though 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 crucial that the teachers keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent 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. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time fluctuates among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Florence AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive free or discounted training from certain truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining associations with many different 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 surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Florence AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Class Times Accessible? As earlier noted, truck driver training is only about one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Florence AL school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.

Is Job Assistance Provided? The moment you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Florence AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Florence AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.

Learn More About Florence Truck Driving Schools

Enroll in the Right Florence CDL Training

Selecting the appropriate trucking school is an important first step to launching your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. However, you must get the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking money or financing, you may need to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent truck driver school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Florence Alabama.

 

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