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How to Find the Right Trucker Classes near Lincoln Alabama

Lincoln Alabama truck carrying payloadCongrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Lincoln AL. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers good income and flexible job opportunities. 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 various variables that you'll need to examine before making your final choice. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Lincoln home. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based only on price is not the best way to guarantee you'll receive the right training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?

Lincoln Alabama truck driving down expressway

In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within Lincoln AL and throughout the USA, an operator must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What differentiates 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). Below are short explanations for the two 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 greater 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 Commercial Drivers License is required to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. A few 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 might also need endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.

How to Research a CDL School

Lincoln Alabama concrete truck with flag paint job

When you have determined which CDL you would like to pursue, you can begin the process of assessing the Lincoln AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As already discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So below are several additional factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the Lincoln AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more typical 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 quality, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Lincoln AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are researching 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 trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual 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 claims it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Lincoln AL schools provide training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Instructors? As already mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors may be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal approach is to check out the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent 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 operating a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time fluctuates among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Lincoln AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.

Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain free or discounted training from certain truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining associations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Lincoln AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Classes Accessible? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is just one to two months long. With such a short duration, it's important that the Lincoln AL school you choose offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.

Is Job Assistance Offered? The moment you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to begin 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 grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Lincoln AL employers hiring their grads, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Lincoln AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted.

Learn More About Lincoln CDL Schools

Choose the Right Lincoln Truck Driver Training

Picking the right truck driver school is an essential first step to starting 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 a number of options available and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must receive the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking money or financing, you might want to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in 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 no matter how you get your training, you will in the near future be joining a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Lincoln Alabama.

 

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