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How to Find the Best CDL Driving Classes near Valley Alabama

Valley Alabama truck hauling payloadCongrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Valley AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible job 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 want to think about before making your final choice. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Valley residence. The cost will also be important, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the ideal means to guarantee you'll obtain the appropriate education. Don't forget, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question 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 ultimately need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?

Valley Alabama truck traveling down highway

To drive commercial vehicles legally within Valley AL and throughout the United States, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief summaries for the 2 classes.

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

How to Evaluate a Trucking School

Valley Alabama concrete mixer truck with flag paint job

As soon as you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can start the process of researching the Valley AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other factors, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So following are several more points that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Valley AL area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get lots 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 curriculum and training will meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.

How Long in Operation? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Valley 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 track record is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.

How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, 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 watch out for any school that claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Valley AL schools offer training programs that range from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Trainers? As already stated, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors may be a bit more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will furnish sufficient driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time varies between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Valley AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from a number of truck driving schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. 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 Valley AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. 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 contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Classes Flexible? As formerly noted, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short term, it's essential that the Valley AL school you select provides 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 prepared to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.

Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Valley AL employers hiring their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Valley 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 assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.

Learn More About Valley Truck Driving Schools

Enroll in the Right Valley CDL Training

Selecting the appropriate trucking school is an essential first step to launching your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must get the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking funds 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 select an independent CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. 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 Valley Alabama.

 

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