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How to Decide on the Right Trucker Classes near Oxford Alabama

Oxford Alabama truck carrying cargoCongrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Oxford 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 analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's important to obtain the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain variables that you'll want to think about before making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Oxford residence. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based only on price is not the best way to make sure you'll receive the right education. Just remember, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you decide on 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 review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?

Oxford Alabama truck driving down road

To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Oxford AL and throughout the USA, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will address 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). Below are short explanations for the 2 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. Several 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 required to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of greater 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 may also require endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.

How to Research a CDL School

Oxford Alabama concrete truck with patriotic paint job

When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Oxford AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other issues, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So following are some additional points that you should research while performing your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Oxford AL area are accredited because of the stringent process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.

How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Oxford AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.

How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personalized attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Oxford AL schools provide training programs that run from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Trainers? As earlier stated, it's imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers stay current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to visit the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driving school will provide 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 ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time fluctuates between 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. Contact the Oxford AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive free or discounted training from certain truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Oxford AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Class Times Convenient? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is only about one to two months in length. With such a short term, it's essential that the Oxford AL school you enroll in provides 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 dedicate 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 accommodate working hours or other commitments.

Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Oxford AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Oxford AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask 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 must be submitted.

Learn More About Oxford Truck Driver Training Schools

Choose the Best Oxford Truck Driver Training

Choosing the appropriate trucking school is an important first step to beginning your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills 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 crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must receive the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might want 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 select an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Oxford Alabama.

 

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