HOME >> ALABAMA >> HELENA >> TRUCKING SCHOOLS


Request Free Information on CDL Schools In Your Area Helena AL 35022

How to Select the Best Truck Driving Classes near Helena Alabama

Helena Alabama tractor trailer hauling payloadCongrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Helena AL. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to get the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several factors that you'll want to think about before making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Helena residence. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal way to make certain you'll receive the proper training. 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 choose a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?

Helena Alabama tractor trailer traveling down highway

In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within Helena AL and throughout the United States, an operator must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a person 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 highlight Class A and B licenses. What differentiates 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). Following are brief explanations of the two classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 CDL is required to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of greater 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 operate certain types of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.

How to Research a Trucking School

Helena Alabama concrete mixer truck with flag paint job

After you have determined which CDL you want to obtain, you can start the undertaking of researching the Helena AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, cost and location will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other variables, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So below are a few more factors that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Helena AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual 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 meet 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 reviewed or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Helena AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's track record is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in compliance.

How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personal instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that claims it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time period. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Helena AL schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Teachers? As earlier mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to visit the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.

How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driving school will provide lots 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 simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time can vary among schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Helena AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from a number of trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining associations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Helena AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Classes Convenient? As earlier mentioned, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it's imperative that the Helena AL school you choose 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 prepared to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.

Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have attained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to start your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are contemplating 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 companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Helena AL employers recruiting their grads, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.

Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Helena AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be submitted.

Learn More About Helena Truck Driver Training Schools

Enroll in the Right Helena Truck Driver Training

Choosing the appropriate truck driving school is an important first step to starting your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. However, you must receive the necessary training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might want to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Helena Alabama.

 

HELENA CDL SCHOOLS | MAIN | HELENA TRUCKER SCHOOLS