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How to Select the Right Truck Driver Classes near Florence Alabama

Florence Alabama tractor trailer hauling payloadCongrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Florence AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to get the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various variables that you'll want to think about prior to making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Florence residence. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the optimal means to ensure you'll obtain the proper training. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable 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? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?

Florence Alabama tractor trailer traveling down highway

In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within Florence AL and throughout the United States, an operator 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. Given that the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will focus on 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 descriptions for the 2 classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate 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 required to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of more 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 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 need endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.

How to Evaluate a Trucking School

Florence Alabama concrete mixer truck with patriotic paint job

When you have determined which CDL you wish to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Florence AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other issues, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are some more things that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Florence AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real 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 training and curriculum will comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One clue to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school normally will not stay 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 first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.

How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the instructors in the next section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the individual instruction they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that claims it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Florence AL schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Instructors? As earlier stated, it's essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors may be a little more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to check out the school and speak with the instructors face to face. 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.

Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a great 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 driving a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no alternative 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 fluctuates among schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Florence AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from certain truck driving schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining relationships with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Florence AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Classes Convenient? As previously noted, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief term, it's important that the Florence AL school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.

Is Job Assistance Provided? The moment you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Florence AL employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Given? Trucking 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 examining have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.

Learn More About Florence CDL Schools

Choose the Best Florence Truck Driver Training

Picking the appropriate trucking school is a critical first step to launching your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must get the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking cash 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 choose an independent CDL school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Florence Alabama.

 

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