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How to Select the Best CDL Driving School near Florence Alabama

Florence Alabama tractor trailer hauling payloadCongrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Florence AL. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's important to obtain the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of variables that you'll want to examine prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Florence home. The expense will also be of importance, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the best way to make sure you'll obtain the proper education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?

Florence Alabama tractor trailer traveling down highway

In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Florence AL and throughout the United States, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a person can apply 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 focus on Class A and Class 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). Following are short descriptions of the 2 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 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. A few 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 need endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.

How to Evaluate a Trucking School

Florence Alabama concrete truck with flag paint job

Once you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the Florence AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other factors, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are a few more points that you should research while performing your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Florence AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common 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 standard, and that they will be given lots of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's course is certified (the course, 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 evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Florence AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.

How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personal instruction they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that claims it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Florence AL schools offer training courses that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.

How Good are the Instructors? As already stated, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors might be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal approach is to pay a visit to 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 satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.

How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driving school will provide lots of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. 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. Get in touch with the Florence 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 some truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Florence AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Class Times Flexible? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the Florence AL school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.

Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Florence AL employers hiring their grads, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Florence AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.

Learn More About Florence Truck Driver Schools

Choose the Best Florence Truck Driver Training

Picking the appropriate truck driver school is an important first step to beginning your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must get the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you may need to consider 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 enroll in an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Florence Alabama.

 

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