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How to Select the Right Trucker School near Valley Alabama

Valley Alabama tractor trailer hauling payloadCongratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Valley AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible job prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to get the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various factors that you'll want to consider before making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Valley residence. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal method to make certain you'll obtain the right training. Just remember, your objective 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 target in mind, just how do you pick 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 ultimately need.

Which CDL Should You Get?

Valley Alabama truck traveling down road

In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Valley AL and throughout the USA, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will discuss 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 short descriptions of the two classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 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. Some 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 require endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.

How to Evaluate a Trucking School

Valley Alabama concrete mixer truck with flag paint job

Once you have decided which CDL you wish to pursue, you can start the undertaking of researching the Valley AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other variables, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are some additional points that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Valley AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Valley AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.

How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the individual instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Valley AL schools provide training programs that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.

How Good are the Trainers? As previously stated, it's essential that the teachers are qualified 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 an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors may be a little more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to visit the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few 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.

Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driver 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. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators 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 be. And even though driving time fluctuates among schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Valley AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get discounted or even free training from certain truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining relationships with many different 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 be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Valley AL schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. 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 convenient than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Classes Accessible? As previously mentioned, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the Valley AL school you enroll in 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 willing to devote 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 responsibilities.

Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Valley AL employers recruiting their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Valley AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.

Find Out More About Valley Truck Driver Schools

Enroll in the Best Valley Truck Driver Training

Picking the appropriate truck driving school is an important first step to beginning your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that mold 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 get the necessary training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you may need 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 enroll in an independent CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking company 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 entering an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Valley Alabama.

 

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