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How to Choose the Best Truck Driving School near Saks Alabama

Saks Alabama truck carrying payloadCongratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Saks AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's important to obtain the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are certain variables that you'll need to consider prior to making your final selection. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Saks residence. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based solely on price is not the optimal means to make certain you'll obtain the proper education. Just remember, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss 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 Will You Require?

Saks Alabama truck driving down highway

To operate commercial vehicles legally within Saks AL and throughout the United States, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since 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 kind of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief summaries of the two classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 CDL is required 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. Several 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 certain kinds of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.

How to Assess a Truck Driving School

Saks Alabama cement truck with flag paint job

As soon as you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Saks AL trucking schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other factors, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are some additional things that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Saks AL area are accredited because of the demanding 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 required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 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 comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One clue to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Saks AL schools had to start from their first 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 share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.

How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the teachers in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personalized attention they will need. This is especially true concerning 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 time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Saks AL schools provide training courses that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.

How Good are the Instructors? As previously stated, it's essential that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the best method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.

How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a good trucking school will provide plenty of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time fluctuates among schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Saks AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.

Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from some trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular 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 having associations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Saks AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Classes Accessible? As previously noted, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's imperative that the Saks 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 certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.

Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have received your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Saks AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Saks AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.

Find Out More About Saks Trucking Classes

Enroll in the Best Saks Truck Driver Training

Choosing the appropriate trucking school is a critical first step to launching your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must receive the proper training in order to operate 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 reduced or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent CDL school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Saks Alabama.

 

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