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How to Choose the Best Trucking School near Gardendale Alabama

Gardendale Alabama truck carrying cargoCongratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Gardendale AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have found that a career as a truck driver offers good wages 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 assessing your options, there are various variables that you'll need to think about before making your final selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Gardendale home. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal method to ensure you'll get the right education. Don't forget, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address 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 CDL Should You Get?

Gardendale Alabama truck traveling down highway

In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within Gardendale AL and throughout the United States, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will address Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief descriptions for the two 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 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 drive 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. Some 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also need endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.

How to Evaluate a Trucking School

Gardendale Alabama cement mixer truck with patriotic paint job

When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can begin the process of assessing the Gardendale AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other factors, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So following are several more factors that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driving schools in the Gardendale AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more common and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real 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 training and curriculum will measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Gardendale AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.

How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the teachers in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personal instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that professes it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Gardendale AL schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.

How Good are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's important that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driver school will provide sufficient 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. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time differs among schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Gardendale AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from certain trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Gardendale AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Classes Flexible? As earlier noted, truck driving training is just one to two months long. With such a short term, it's important that the Gardendale AL school you select 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 spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.

Is Job Placement Provided? As soon as you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Gardendale AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Gardendale AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out 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 Gardendale Truck Driver Classes

Choose the Right Gardendale CDL Training

Choosing the appropriate trucking school is a critical first step to starting 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 several options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. However, you must receive the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you may need to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Gardendale Alabama.

 

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