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How to Find the Right Trucking School near Jacksonville Alabama

Jacksonville Alabama tractor trailer hauling payloadCongratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL 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 analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to receive the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain factors that you'll want to think about before making your final choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Jacksonville home. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based only on price is not the best way to make certain you'll get the proper education. Just remember, your objective 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 purpose in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question 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 commercial driver's license you will eventually need.

Which CDL Will You Need?

Jacksonville Alabama tractor trailer driving down expressway

To operate commercial vehicles legally within Jacksonville AL and throughout the USA, a driver needs to attain 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 subject of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will address 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 explanations for the 2 classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 CDL 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 need endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, such as 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 Assess a Truck Driving School

Jacksonville Alabama concrete mixer truck with flag paint job

Once you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Jacksonville AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other issues, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are some more things that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Jacksonville AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of 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 mandates 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 training and curriculum will comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated 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 best of 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 history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.

How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personalized attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that insists it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Jacksonville AL schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.

How Good are the Instructors? As already mentioned, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal method is to visit the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, a good trucking 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. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important 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 become. Although driving time fluctuates between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Jacksonville AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they provide.

Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from some truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, 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 reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Jacksonville AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide 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 Class Times Convenient? As formerly mentioned, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Jacksonville AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to spend 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 Offered? Once you have attained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Jacksonville AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Given? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Jacksonville AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.

Find Out More About Jacksonville Trucking Schools

Enroll in the Best Jacksonville Truck Driver Training

Selecting the ideal truck driving school is an important first step to beginning your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must receive the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you may want to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you get your training, you will soon be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Jacksonville Alabama.

 

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