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How to Find the Right Trucking School near Lincoln Alabama

Lincoln Alabama truck hauling cargoCongrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Lincoln AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides good income and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to get the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of variables that you'll want to consider before making your final selection. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you need to commute from your Lincoln home. The expense will also be of importance, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the best means to make sure you'll get the appropriate education. Just remember, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?

Lincoln Alabama truck driving down road

In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within Lincoln AL and throughout the United States, an operator must attain 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 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 descriptions for the two classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more 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 needed to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more 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 CDLs might also require endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.

How to Research a Truck Driving School

Lincoln Alabama cement mixer truck with patriotic paint job

When you have decided which CDL you want to pursue, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Lincoln AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other variables, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are a few more points that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Lincoln AL area are accredited because of the rigorous 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 certain advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Lincoln AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.

How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the teachers in the following section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personal 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 professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Lincoln AL schools provide training programs that run from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's important that the teachers are qualified 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 an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a little more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to visit the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.

How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driving school will furnish sufficient driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time varies between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Lincoln AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.

Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive free or discounted training from certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific 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 having relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Lincoln AL schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier noted, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the Lincoln AL school you choose offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.

Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Lincoln AL employers hiring their grads, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Lincoln AL area technical or vocational 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 must be submitted.

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Choose the Right Lincoln Truck Driver Training

Picking the right trucking school is a critical first step to starting your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must get the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may want to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent truck driver 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 regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Lincoln Alabama.

 

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