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How to Select the Right Truck Driver School near Huntsville Alabama

Huntsville Alabama tractor trailer carrying payloadCongrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Huntsville AL. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have found that a career as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to obtain the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various variables that you'll want to consider before making your final choice. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you need to commute from your Huntsville residence. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the best way to ensure you'll get the appropriate training. Don't forget, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?

Huntsville Alabama truck traveling down highway

In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Huntsville AL and throughout the United States, a driver needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and Class 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). Below are brief summaries of the 2 classes.

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

How to Research a Truck Driving School

Huntsville Alabama concrete mixer truck with flag paint job

When you have decided which CDL you would like to pursue, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Huntsville AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As already discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. 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 some additional factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Huntsville AL area are accredited because of the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent 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 know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive 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 course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Huntsville 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 history is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.

How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the individual instruction they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Huntsville AL schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.

How Good are the Trainers? As already mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a little more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the best approach is to visit the school and talk to the instructors in person. 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 qualification to train them.

Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driving school will provide sufficient driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time can vary among schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Huntsville AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from a number of truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Huntsville AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Classes Convenient? As previously noted, truck driver training is only about one to two months long. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Huntsville AL school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.

Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Huntsville AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Huntsville AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. 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.

Find Out More About Huntsville CDL Schools

Enroll in the Best Huntsville CDL Training

Choosing the right trucking school is an important first step to starting your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you may want to consider 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 trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Huntsville Alabama.

 

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