How to Enroll in the Right CDL Driving Classes near Gulf Shores Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Gulf Shores AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have found that a career as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to receive the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain factors that you'll need to think about before making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Gulf Shores residence. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the best method to make sure you'll get the proper training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge 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? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Will You Require?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Gulf Shores AL and throughout the United States, an operator must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will address Class A and Class 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). Below are short explanations 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. Several 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 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. 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 operate specific kinds of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Assess a Truck Driver School
When you have decided which CDL you would like to obtain, you can start the process of evaluating the Gulf Shores AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As already discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other factors, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So below are some more things that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Gulf Shores AL area are accredited due to the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more common 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. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 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 comply with the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Gulf Shores 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 job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing authority to verify 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 instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personal instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Gulf Shores AL schools provide training programs that range from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As earlier mentioned, it's important that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driving school will furnish plenty 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 driving a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no substitute for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Gulf Shores AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from certain truck driving schools if you make a commitment to drive for a particular 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 associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Gulf Shores AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As formerly noted, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short term, it's important that the Gulf Shores AL school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Gulf Shores AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Gulf Shores AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Enroll in the Right Gulf Shores Truck Driver Training
Choosing the right truck driving school is an important first step to beginning your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you might 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 trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Gulf Shores Alabama.