How to Choose a Truck Driving School Fairhope Alabama
Best wishes on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Fairhope AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it’s imperative to receive the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several variables that you’ll need to consider before making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Fairhope residence. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal way to ensure you’ll get the proper training. Don’t forget, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver’s license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Fairhope AL, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The three license classes that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject 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 as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief summaries for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 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 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 CDLs may also need endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Research a CDL School
After you have decided which CDL you want to pursue, you can start the undertaking of researching the Fairhope AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, cost and location will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can’t be stressed enough that they must not be your sole 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 more points that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Fairhope AL area are accredited due to 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 obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school’s course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help measure the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Fairhope AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school’s history is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won’t share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the next section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater 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 concerning 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 relatively short time period. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Fairhope AL schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As previously stated, it’s important that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also vital that the instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher’s ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driving 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 driving a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Fairhope AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get discounted or even free training from some truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. 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 place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Fairhope AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed 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 centers. It is also an indication that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As previously noted, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief term, it’s imperative that the Fairhope AL school you select provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you’re having difficulty learning a certain 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 responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have obtained your commercial driver’s license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Fairhope AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Fairhope AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Attending Truck Driving School near Fairhope AL?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Fairhope Alabama area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
Fairhope is a city in Baldwin County, Alabama, United States, on a sloping plateau, along the cliffs and shoreline of Mobile Bay. The 2010 census lists the population of the city as 15,326. Fairhope is a principal city of the Daphne-Fairhope-Foley micropolitan area, which includes all of Baldwin County. In 2016, Fairhope was named the best small town in the South by Southern Living magazine.
Fairhope was founded in November 1894 on the site of the former Alabama City as a radical Georgist "Single-Tax" colony by the Fairhope Industrial Association, a group of 28 followers of economist Henry George who had incorporated earlier that year in Des Moines, Iowa. Their corporate constitution explained their purpose in founding a new colony:
In forming their demonstration project, they pooled their funds to purchase land at "Stapleton's pasture" on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay and then divided it into a number of long-term leaseholds. The corporation paid all governmental taxes from rents paid by the lessees, thus simulating a single-tax. The purpose of the single-tax colony was to eliminate disincentives for productive use of land and thereby retain the value of land for the community.
Choose the Ideal Truck Driving School Fairhope AL
Selecting the right truck driving school is an important first step to starting your new vocation 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 several options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver’s success. But first and foremost, you must get the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you might need to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It’s your choice. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Fairhope AL.
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