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How to Choose the Right Truck Driving Classes near Northport Alabama

Northport Alabama truck hauling cargoCongrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Northport AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain factors that you'll need to consider before making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Northport residence. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal means to make certain you'll get the appropriate training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That 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 commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.

Which CDL Will You Require?

Northport Alabama tractor trailer traveling down highway

In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within Northport AL and throughout the United States, 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 choose a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief summaries of the 2 classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 operate 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. Several 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 need endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.

How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School

Northport Alabama cement mixer truck with patriotic paint job

Once you have determined which CDL you wish to obtain, you can begin the process of evaluating the Northport AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other variables, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are several additional points that you should research while performing your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Northport 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 required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual 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 training and curriculum will fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Northport AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's track record is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.

How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personalized attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that claims it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time frame. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Northport AL schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Teachers? As earlier stated, it's imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a little more subjective than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to check out the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driver school will furnish lots of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time varies among schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Northport AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.

Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from some truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having associations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Northport AL schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Class Times Accessible? As earlier mentioned, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it's imperative that the Northport AL school you enroll in 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 willing to dedicate 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 commitments.

Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Northport AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Northport AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.

Learn More About Northport Trucker Training Schools

Enroll in the Best Northport Truck Driver Training

Choosing the ideal truck driver school is a critical first step to launching your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. However, you must get the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on cash or financing, you might want to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower 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 the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Northport Alabama.

 

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