How to Decide on the Best CDL Training Classes near Saks Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Saks AL. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's important to get the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various factors that you'll need to examine before making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Saks home. The expense will also be of importance, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the best method to make sure you'll get the appropriate training. Don't forget, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal 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 remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Will You Require?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within Saks AL and throughout the United States, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will address Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type 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 descriptions for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of more 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also require endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Research a Truck Driver School
Once you have decided which CDL you wish to pursue, you can begin the process of assessing the Saks AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other variables, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So below are a few additional points that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Saks AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 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 meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school typically 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 several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personalized 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 teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Saks AL schools offer training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As already mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors might be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to check out the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driving 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 driving a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time can vary among schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Saks AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from certain truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Saks AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As previously noted, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it's imperative that the Saks AL school you select 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 instructor should be willing 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 accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Saks AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Saks AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Right Saks Truck Driver Training
Selecting the appropriate trucking school is a critical first step to beginning your new occupation 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 many options offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might need to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Saks Alabama.