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How to Pick the Best CDL Driving Classes near Jacksonville Alabama

Jacksonville Alabama truck carrying payloadCongrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Jacksonville AL. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to get the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various factors that you'll want to examine before making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Jacksonville home. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based exclusively on price is not the best method to make certain you'll get the proper training. Just remember, 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 goal in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the rest 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 Require?

Jacksonville Alabama tractor trailer driving down highway

In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within Jacksonville AL and throughout the United States, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will focus on Class A and Class 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 two classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A CDL 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. Some 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 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 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also need endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.

How to Evaluate a CDL School

Jacksonville Alabama cement mixer truck with flag paint job

As soon as you have determined which CDL you would like to obtain, you can begin the process of researching the Jacksonville AL trucking schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary 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 equally if not more important. So below are some more things that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Jacksonville AL area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive lots of driving time. As an 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 comply with the very high benchmarks 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 poorly reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Jacksonville AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing authority to make sure 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 teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the individual attention 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 claims it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Jacksonville AL schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.

How Good are the Instructors? As already mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to visit the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.

Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driver school will furnish 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. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time differs among schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Jacksonville AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.

Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from a number of truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular 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 rather than maintaining relationships with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Jacksonville AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier mentioned, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's important that the Jacksonville AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.

Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies 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 Assistance Given? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Jacksonville AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.

Learn More About Jacksonville CDL Training Schools

Choose the Best Jacksonville CDL Training

Choosing the ideal truck driver school is a critical first step to beginning your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must get the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on cash or financing, you might need to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking company 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 an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Jacksonville Alabama.

 

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