How to Enroll in the Best CDL Driving Classes near Helena Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Helena AL. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain factors that you'll need to consider before making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Helena residence. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based solely on price is not the ideal way to guarantee you'll get the right training. Don't forget, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow 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 remainder of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Helena AL and throughout the United States, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one can qualify 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 discuss Class A and 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 summaries for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to drive 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 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 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 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 require endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School
As soon as you have determined which CDL you wish to pursue, you can start the undertaking of researching the Helena AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other issues, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are a few additional points that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Helena AL area are accredited due to the demanding 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 required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's program is certified (the program, 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 Business? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driver 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. On the other hand, even the best of Helena AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school's track record is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing authority 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 experienced and trained. We will cover more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personalized instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Helena AL schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously stated, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method 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 satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driver school will provide lots of 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. While 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 gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Helena AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from some trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up 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 some it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Helena AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As previously mentioned, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it's important that the Helena AL school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Helena AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Helena AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Best Helena Truck Driver Training
Selecting the ideal trucking school is an important first step to launching your new vocation 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 many options available and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must receive the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. 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 enroll in an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be joining a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Helena Alabama.