How to Select the Best Trucker Classes near Bessemer Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Bessemer AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's important to get the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several factors that you'll want to think about prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be important, especially if you need to commute from your Bessemer residence. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal method to make certain you'll get the right education. Just remember, 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 purpose in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Is Required?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Bessemer AL, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a driver 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 highlight Class A and Class 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 explanations of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 needed 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also need endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Assess a Trucker School
When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Bessemer AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other factors, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So below are a few additional factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Bessemer AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 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 meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help measure the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Bessemer AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships 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 assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking 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 cover more about the instructors in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the individual instruction they will need. This is especially 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 a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Bessemer AL schools offer training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As earlier mentioned, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal approach is to visit the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driver school will provide 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. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time fluctuates among schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Bessemer AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get discounted or even free training from some truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called 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 refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Bessemer AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As earlier noted, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's imperative that the Bessemer AL school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular 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 attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Bessemer AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Bessemer AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enroll in the Best Bessemer AL Truck Driver Training
Selecting the right trucking school is a critical first step to starting your new occupation as a long distance or local 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 vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Bessemer AL.