How to Select the Best CDL Training Classes near Bessemer Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Bessemer AL. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to receive the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain variables that you'll need to think about before making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Bessemer residence. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based only on price is not the best way to ensure you'll get the proper training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address 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 Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Bessemer AL, an operator must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to select a truck driver 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 in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short summaries for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 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 CDLs may also need endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School
When you have decided which CDL you would like to pursue, you can start the process of evaluating the Bessemer AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other variables, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So following are a few additional factors that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Bessemer AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical 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 know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get plenty of driving time. For 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 training and curriculum will fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Bessemer AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the following 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 obtaining the personalized instruction they will need. This is particularly 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 three weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously stated, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal approach is to visit the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driver school will furnish plenty of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time can vary between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Bessemer AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from a number of truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Bessemer AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As earlier mentioned, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's important that the Bessemer 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 certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Bessemer AL employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Bessemer AL area technical or vocational 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 least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Right Bessemer AL CDL Driver Training
Selecting the appropriate trucking school is an important first step to beginning your new profession 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 critical to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must receive the appropriate training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking money or financing, you might need to think about 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 trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you receive your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Bessemer AL.