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How to Decide on the Best Trucker Classes near Princeton Alabama

Princeton Alabama truck carrying cargoCongrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Princeton AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides good income and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several factors that you'll need to examine prior to making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Princeton home. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the best way to guarantee you'll obtain the proper education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.

Which CDL Will You Need?

Princeton Alabama truck driving down expressway

To operate commercial vehicles legally within Princeton AL and throughout the United States, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates 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 short descriptions for the 2 classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more 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 greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. A few 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 require endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, including 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 drive.

How to Evaluate a CDL School

Princeton Alabama concrete truck with patriotic paint job

Once you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the Princeton AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other variables, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So following are some additional factors that you should research while performing your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Princeton AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive lots of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real 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 measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.

How Long in Operation? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Princeton AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.

How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the individual instruction 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 claims 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 skillfully takes time. Most Princeton AL schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Teachers? As earlier mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors stay up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors may be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.

Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, a good trucking 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. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Princeton AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.

Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from a number of truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Princeton AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Princeton AL school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor 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 fit in working hours or other obligations.

Is Job Assistance Offered? The moment you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Princeton AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Princeton AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.

Find Out More About Princeton Trucker Classes

Enroll in the Best Princeton CDL Training

Picking the appropriate truck driver school is an essential first step to launching your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must get 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 might want to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Princeton Alabama.

 

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