How to Pick a CDL Driving School Birmingham Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Birmingham AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it’s imperative to get the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are a number of variables that you’ll want to examine prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Birmingham residence. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based only on price is not the best means to guarantee you’ll get the right training. Just remember, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target 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 balance 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 Should You Get?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Birmingham AL, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 classes of licenses that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to select 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 as well as 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 required 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 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. A few 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 certain types of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Research a Trucking School
As soon as you have determined which CDL you wish to pursue, you can begin the process of assessing the Birmingham AL trucking schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, cost and location will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can’t be stressed enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So below are some more things that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Birmingham AL area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual 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 curriculum and training 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 business. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Birmingham AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school’s history is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won’t provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it’s any higher, then students will not be receiving the personalized attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Birmingham AL schools offer training courses that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As earlier mentioned, it’s essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also vital that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal method is to check out the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher’s ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a great trucking 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. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time varies among schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Birmingham AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain free or discounted training from a number of truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining associations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Birmingham AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As previously noted, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief term, it’s important that the Birmingham AL school you choose offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you’re having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you’re still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Birmingham AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Birmingham 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 examining have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.
Attending Truck Driving School near Birmingham AL?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Birmingham Alabama area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
Birmingham (/ˈbɜːrmɪŋhæm/ BUR-ming-ham) is the most populous city in the U.S. state of Alabama and the seat of Jefferson County. The city's population was 212,237 in the 2010 United States Census. As of 2010, the Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of about 1,128,047, approximately one-quarter of Alabama's population.
Birmingham was founded in 1871, during the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, through the merger of three pre-existing farm towns, most notably Elyton. The new city was named for Birmingham, England, the UK's second largest city and at the time a major industrial city. The Alabama city annexed smaller neighbors and developed as an industrial center, based on mining, the new iron and steel industry, and rail transport. Most of the original settlers who founded Birmingham were of English ancestry. The city was developed as a place where cheap, non-unionized immigrant labor (primarily Irish and Italian), along with African-American labor from rural Alabama, could be employed in the city's steel mills and blast furnaces, giving it a competitive advantage over unionized industrial cities in the Midwest and Northeast.:14
From its founding through the end of the 1960s, Birmingham was a primary industrial center of the southern United States. Its growth from 1881 through 1920 earned it nicknames such as "The Magic City" and "The Pittsburgh of the South". Its major industries were iron and steel production. Major components of the railroad industry, rails and railroad cars, were manufactured in Birmingham: since the 1860s, the two primary hubs of railroading in the "Deep South" have been Birmingham and Atlanta. The economy diversified in the latter half of the 20th century. Banking, telecommunications, transportation, electrical power transmission, medical care, college education, and insurance have become major economic activities. Birmingham ranks as one of the largest banking centers in the United States. Also, it is among the most important business centers in the Southeast.
Pick the Ideal CDL School Birmingham AL
Choosing the right truck driver school is a critical first step to launching your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver’s success. Most importantly, you must obtain the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on cash or financing, you might need to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It’s your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Birmingham AL.
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