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How to Pick the Right CDL Training School near Guntersville Alabama

Guntersville Alabama truck hauling cargoCongrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Guntersville AL. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to receive the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of variables that you'll want to examine prior to making your final choice. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you have to commute from your Guntersville home. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the optimal way to guarantee you'll get the right training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.

Which CDL Will You Need?

Guntersville Alabama tractor trailer traveling down expressway

To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Guntersville AL and throughout the United States, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief summaries of the two classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Some 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 require endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.

How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School

Guntersville Alabama cement truck with patriotic paint job

Once you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can start the process of assessing the Guntersville AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other factors, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So following are some more factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Guntersville AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual 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 curriculum and training will measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Operation? One indicator to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Guntersville AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't supply those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in compliance.

How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual instruction 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 teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Guntersville AL schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Instructors? As already mentioned, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors may be a bit more subjective than other standards, and possibly the best approach is to check out the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.

Enough Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent 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 driving a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Guntersville AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from some trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with 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 limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Guntersville AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Class Times Convenient? As previously noted, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Guntersville AL school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.

Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Guntersville AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Guntersville AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.

Find Out More About Guntersville CDL Schools

Choose the Right Guntersville CDL Training

Picking the appropriate truck driving school is an essential first step to launching your new occupation as a local or long distance 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 to a new driver's success. However, you must get the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select 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 decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Guntersville Alabama.

 

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