How to Choose the Right Trucking School near Florence Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Florence AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible work prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to receive the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various factors that you'll need to think about before making your final choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Florence home. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based only on price is not the best method to make sure you'll get the proper training. Don't forget, your goal is to master 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 choose 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 Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Florence AL and throughout the USA, a driver must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short explanations of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 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 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 might also need endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Research a Truck Driver School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you would like to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Florence AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other issues, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So following are several additional things that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driving schools in the Florence AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and cost to the schools. However, 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 a number of advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get lots 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 curriculum and training will fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Florence AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personalized instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Florence AL schools offer training programs that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As earlier mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best method is to visit the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent trucking school will furnish lots of driving time to its students. Besides, 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 simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time can vary among schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Florence AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get discounted or even free training from certain truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Florence AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As previously noted, truck driver training is only about one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's important that the Florence AL school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Florence AL employers recruiting their grads, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Florence AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Right Florence CDL Training
Selecting the ideal truck driving school is a critical first step to beginning your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, you must get the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on cash or financing, you might need to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Florence Alabama.