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How to Find the Best Trucking Classes near Theodore Alabama

Theodore Alabama truck carrying cargoCongratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Theodore AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible job prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's important to obtain the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are a number of variables that you'll want to consider before making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be important, especially if you need to commute from your Theodore home. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based only on price is not the optimal method to guarantee you'll obtain the right training. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional 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 address in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?

Theodore Alabama truck driving down road

In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within Theodore AL and throughout the USA, an operator must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief summaries of the two classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to operate 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 CDL is required to operate 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. 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also require endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.

How to Research a CDL School

Theodore Alabama concrete mixer truck with flag paint job

Once you have decided which CDL you would like to obtain, you can start the process of researching the Theodore AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other variables, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So below are several additional things that you should research while conducting your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driving schools in the Theodore AL area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more common and is offered 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 quality, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 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 Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Theodore AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.

How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors in the following section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personalized instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Theodore AL schools provide training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Trainers? As earlier mentioned, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to visit the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.

Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, a great trucking school will furnish lots 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. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time differs among schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Theodore AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from a number of trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with a wide range of 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 be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Theodore AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Class Times Flexible? As previously mentioned, truck driving training is just one to two months long. With such a short term, it's essential that the Theodore 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 instructor should be prepared to commit 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 fit in working hours or other obligations.

Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Theodore AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Theodore AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.

Learn More About Theodore Trucker Classes

Choose the Right Theodore Truck Driver Training

Picking the ideal truck driving school is an important 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 offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must obtain the necessary training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you might want to think about 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 trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Theodore Alabama.

 

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