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How to Select the Best Trucker School near Gadsden Alabama

Gadsden Alabama tractor trailer hauling payloadCongratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Gadsden AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's important to receive the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various 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 Gadsden home. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal means to make certain you'll obtain the proper education. Just remember, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?

Gadsden Alabama tractor trailer driving down road

To drive commercial vehicles legally within Gadsden AL and throughout the USA, an operator needs to 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 pick a truck driver school, we will discuss Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short descriptions for the two classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more 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 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 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 might also need endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.

How to Assess a Truck Driving School

Gadsden Alabama concrete truck with patriotic paint job

After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can begin the process of assessing the Gadsden AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other factors, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So below are a few additional factors that you need to research while conducting your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Gadsden AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, 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 several advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. 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 driver school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Gadsden AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.

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 teachers in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the individual attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Gadsden AL schools provide training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.

How Good are the Instructors? As earlier stated, it's important that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to check out the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver school will furnish plenty of 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 operating a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time varies among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Gadsden AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.

Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from some truck driving schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining relationships with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Gadsden AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Classes Accessible? As formerly mentioned, truck driver training is only about one to two months in length. With such a short term, it's important that the Gadsden AL school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing 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 needs to 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 keen to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Gadsden AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Gadsden AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be submitted.

Learn More About Gadsden CDL Schools

Choose the Best Gadsden CDL Training

Selecting the appropriate truck driver school is a critical first step to beginning your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must get the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on cash or financing, you may want to look into 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 trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Gadsden Alabama.

 

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