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How to Decide on the Best Truck Driving Classes near Northport Alabama

Northport Alabama truck hauling payloadCongratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Northport AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides good pay and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various variables that you'll want to consider prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Northport home. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based only on price is not the optimal means to ensure you'll receive the proper education. Don't forget, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.

Which CDL Will You Need?

Northport Alabama truck driving down expressway

In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Northport AL and throughout the USA, an operator must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will address Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short explanations for 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. 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 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 CDLs might also require endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.

How to Assess a Truck Driving School

Northport Alabama cement truck with patriotic paint job

After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can begin the process of assessing the Northport AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other issues, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So below are several additional things that you need to research while performing your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Northport AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and expense to the schools. However, 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 a number of advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real 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 satisfy the very high standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Northport AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.

How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personalized instruction they will need. This is particularly 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 drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Northport AL schools provide training courses that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Instructors? As earlier mentioned, it's important that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers keep current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.

Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driver school will furnish 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. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time differs between schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Northport AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.

Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive free or discounted training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement 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 provide it are called captives. So rather than having affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Northport AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Class Times Convenient? As earlier mentioned, CDL training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Northport 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 certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.

Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have attained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Northport AL employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Given? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Northport 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 examining have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.

Learn More About Northport Trucker Schools

Choose the Right Northport Truck Driver Training

Selecting the ideal trucking school is an important 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 shape 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 receive the appropriate training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may need to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Northport Alabama.

 

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