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How to Decide on the Right Truck Driver Classes near Opp Alabama

Opp Alabama tractor trailer carrying payloadCongratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Opp AL. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good income and flexible work opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to get the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several variables that you'll need to examine prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Opp home. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal means to ensure you'll receive the proper education. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.

Which CDL Should You Get?

Opp Alabama tractor trailer driving down road

To operate commercial vehicles legally within Opp AL and throughout the USA, an operator must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses 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 driver school, we will highlight Class A and 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). Following are brief explanations of the 2 classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to drive 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 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 required to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater 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 specific kinds of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.

How to Evaluate a CDL School

Opp Alabama concrete truck with patriotic paint job

After you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can begin the process of assessing the Opp AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, cost and location will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other issues, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So below are some additional points that you should research while performing your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Opp AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and expense 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 a number of advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given lots 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 curriculum and training will comply with the very high benchmarks 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 poorly reviewed or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Opp AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.

How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next segment. 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 personalized attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that insists it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Opp AL schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Teachers? As earlier mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and possibly the best method is to check out the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.

Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driving school will provide ample 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 necessary training tools, they are no alternative for real 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 among schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Opp AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.

Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from some trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive 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 many it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Opp AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd 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 looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Classes Convenient? As formerly noted, truck driver training is just one to two months long. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Opp AL school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. 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 responsibilities.

Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to begin your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Opp AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Opp AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted.

Find Out More About Opp Trucker Training Schools

Choose the Right Opp CDL Training

Selecting the appropriate trucking school is an important first step to beginning your new vocation 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 a number of options offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must receive the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you may need to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driver school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Opp Alabama.

 

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