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How to Choose the Right Truck Driver Classes near Valley Alabama

Valley Alabama tractor trailer carrying cargoCongrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Valley AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides good income and flexible job prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's important to receive the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various factors that you'll need to consider before making your final choice. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Valley residence. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the optimal way to make certain you'll get the proper training. Just remember, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional 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 remainder of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.

Which CDL Will You Require?

Valley Alabama tractor trailer traveling down highway

In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within Valley AL and throughout the USA, a driver needs to 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 choose a truck driving school, we will highlight 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). Following are short summaries of 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 more than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Several 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 need endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.

How to Assess a Truck Driver School

Valley Alabama concrete truck with flag paint job

After you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the process of researching the Valley AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other issues, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are a few additional factors that you should research while conducting your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Valley AL area are accredited due to the rigorous 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 obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given lots of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Valley AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in good standing.

How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personalized attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Valley AL schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.

How Good are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.

How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent 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 actual time spent behind the wheel operating 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 instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time can vary among schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Valley AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive free or discounted training from a number of truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Valley AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Valley AL school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to spend more time with you until you are proficient. 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 commitments.

Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Valley AL employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.

Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Valley AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.

Learn More About Valley Trucker Classes

Enroll in the Best Valley Truck Driver Training

Selecting the ideal trucking school is an essential first step to launching your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets 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 crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must receive the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you might want to think about 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 choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Valley Alabama.

 

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