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How to Select the Right CDL Training School near Prichard Alabama

Prichard Alabama truck carrying payloadCongrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Prichard AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to get the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain variables that you'll need to examine before making your final choice. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Prichard residence. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the optimal way to guarantee you'll get the proper education. Just remember, 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 target in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the rest 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 Will You Require?

Prichard Alabama tractor trailer traveling down expressway

To drive commercial vehicles legally within Prichard AL and throughout the USA, a driver needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to 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 needed to operate 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 greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. A few 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 need endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.

How to Assess a Truck Driving School

Prichard Alabama concrete truck with flag paint job

After you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can start the process of researching the Prichard AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other issues, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So below are several additional factors that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Prichard AL area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, 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 certain advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will comply with the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Prichard AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in good standing.

How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personal attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Prichard AL schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.

How Good are the Instructors? As previously stated, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a little more subjective than other standards, and possibly the best method is to pay a visit to 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 happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driver school will provide plenty of 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 essential training tools, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time varies among schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Prichard AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.

Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from a number of truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff 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 opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Prichard AL schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Class Times Convenient? As formerly noted, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Prichard AL school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.

Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing 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 companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Prichard AL employers hiring their grads, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Prichard 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 assessing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.

Learn More About Prichard CDL Classes

Choose the Best Prichard CDL Training

Selecting the ideal truck driving school is an important first step to beginning your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must obtain the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might want to consider 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 choose an independent truck driver school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Prichard Alabama.

 

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