How to Enroll in the Best CDL Driving Classes near Southside Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Southside AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to receive the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several variables that you'll need to consider before making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Southside home. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal means to make sure you'll receive the proper training. Just remember, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within Southside AL and throughout the United States, an operator must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes 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). Following are short 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 more 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 Commercial Drivers License is required 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. Some 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 example passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Research a Truck Driving School
Once you have determined which CDL you wish to pursue, you can start the process of evaluating the Southside AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So following are a few additional factors that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Southside AL area are accredited because of the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more typical and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive lots of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real 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 training and curriculum will fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Southside AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider 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 share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the personalized instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that professes it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Southside AL schools provide training programs that run from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As earlier stated, it's essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. 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 crucial that the instructors stay current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers might be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to visit the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driving school will furnish 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 alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time differs 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. Contact the Southside AL schools you are researching and ask 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 driving schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having relationships 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 flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Southside AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As previously noted, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's essential that the Southside AL school you select offers 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 prepared to commit 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 Offered? The moment you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to start your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Southside AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Southside AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Right Southside Truck Driver Training
Selecting the appropriate trucking school is an essential first step to launching your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. However, you must receive the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on cash or financing, you may want to look into 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 select an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will soon be part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Southside Alabama.