How to Find the Right CDL Driving Classes near Sheffield Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Sheffield AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to obtain the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various variables that you'll want to think about before making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Sheffield residence. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the best way to make certain you'll obtain the proper education. Don't forget, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Sheffield AL and throughout the United States, an operator must attain 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 topic of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and 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). Below are brief explanations for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 CDL is needed to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of more 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 operate specific types of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Evaluate a CDL School
When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the process of assessing the Sheffield AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other variables, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So below are a few additional points that you need to research while performing your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Sheffield AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive lots of driving time. As an 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 standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Sheffield AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing 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 cover more about the instructors in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the individual instruction 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 claims it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Sheffield AL schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As already mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driver school will furnish plenty of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time varies among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Sheffield AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive free or discounted training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, 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. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Sheffield AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As formerly mentioned, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it's imperative that the Sheffield AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. 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 have it mastered. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement rate 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 lower job placement rate or few Sheffield AL employers recruiting their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Sheffield AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Best Sheffield CDL Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driver school is a critical first step to starting your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might need to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent truck driver school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Sheffield Alabama.