How to Enroll in the Best Truck Driving Classes near Jacksonville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Jacksonville AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have found that a career as a truck driver provides good pay and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to receive the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various variables that you'll need to think about before making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, especially if you need to commute from your Jacksonville home. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based only on price is not the ideal means to make certain you'll obtain the right education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Jacksonville AL and throughout the United States, a driver must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and 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). Following are brief explanations of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License 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. 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 required 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. Several 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 might also require endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a Trucking School
As soon as you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can begin the process of researching the Jacksonville AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So following are several more points that you should research while performing your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Jacksonville AL area are accredited because of the stringent process and cost 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 obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 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 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 trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Jacksonville AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting 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 train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Jacksonville AL schools provide training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As previously stated, it's important that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. 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 instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to visit the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also speak with a few 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, an excellent trucking school will provide lots of 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. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time differs among schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Jacksonville AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific 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 affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Jacksonville AL schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted 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 other schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As formerly noted, CDL training is only about one to two months long. With such a short duration, it's imperative that the Jacksonville AL school you select offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to begin your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Jacksonville AL employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Jacksonville AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Right Jacksonville Truck Driver Training
Choosing the right trucking school is a critical first step to beginning your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might need to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent truck driver school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many affiliated 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 Jacksonville Alabama.