How to Find the Right Truck Driver Classes near Bessemer Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Bessemer AL. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good income and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's important to obtain the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several factors that you'll want to think about prior to making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Bessemer home. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal means to make sure you'll get the right education. Don't forget, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Is Required?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Bessemer AL, a driver needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief descriptions for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required 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 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 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 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 might also need endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Research a Truck Driving School
Once you have decided which CDL you would like to pursue, you can begin the process of assessing the Bessemer AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other factors, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So below are several more things that you need to research while performing your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driving schools in the Bessemer AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, 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. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given lots of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 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 curriculum and training will satisfy the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess 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 best of Bessemer AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, 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 watch out for any school that claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Bessemer AL schools offer training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As earlier stated, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal approach 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 going through the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driver 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. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time varies among schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Bessemer AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain free or discounted training from certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Bessemer AL schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are several 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 considering are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As previously noted, truck driver training is only about one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Bessemer AL school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to spend 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 responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? As soon as you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Bessemer AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Bessemer AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.
Select the Right Bessemer AL CDL Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driving school is an essential first step to starting your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. However, you must get the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you might need to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Bessemer AL.