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How to Enroll in the Right CDL Training School near Mobile Alabama

Mobile Alabama truck hauling payloadCongratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Mobile AL. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to get the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain variables that you'll need to think about before making your final selection. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Mobile residence. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the ideal means to make sure you'll get the appropriate education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target 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 rest of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?

Mobile Alabama truck driving down highway

In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within Mobile AL and throughout the USA, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will focus on Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short descriptions of the 2 classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 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 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 require endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, 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

Mobile Alabama cement truck with patriotic paint job

After you have determined which CDL you want to obtain, you can start the process of evaluating the Mobile AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, location and cost will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other variables, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So below are some additional things that you should research while performing your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Mobile AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical and is offered 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 standard, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual 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 measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Mobile AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's track record is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in good standing.

How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the following 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 getting the personal attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Mobile AL schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.

How Good are the Trainers? As earlier mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods 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 up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and possibly the ideal method is to check out the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driving school will provide 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. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time can vary among schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Mobile AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from some truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having relationships with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Mobile AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking 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 benefit is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Class Times Accessible? As formerly mentioned, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it's imperative that the Mobile AL school you enroll in 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 teacher should be willing to devote 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 fit in working hours or other commitments.

Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask 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 Mobile AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Mobile AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.

Learn More About Mobile CDL Classes

Choose the Best Mobile Truck Driver Training

Picking the appropriate trucking school is an essential first step to launching your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught 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 to a new driver's success. However, you must get the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may need to look into 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 CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Mobile Alabama.

 

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