How to Find the Right Truck Driving Classes near Bessemer Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Bessemer AL. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to get the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain factors that you'll want to consider before making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Bessemer home. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the ideal method to make certain you'll get the appropriate training. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal 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 rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Bessemer AL, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will focus on 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 brief explanations 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 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 CDL is required to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Several 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 drive 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 license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Evaluate a Trucking School
When you have decided which CDL you wish to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of researching the Bessemer AL trucking schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other variables, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So below are some more factors that you need to research while performing your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Bessemer AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more typical and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Bessemer AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. 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 reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, 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 attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that claims it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Bessemer AL schools offer training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As earlier mentioned, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as a teacher, 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 regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to check out the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driver school will furnish ample 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 simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time differs between schools, a good standard 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 find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive free or discounted training from certain trucking 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 provide it are called captives. So rather than having affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just be sure 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 a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier mentioned, truck driving training is just one to two months in length. With such a short term, it's essential that the Bessemer AL school you enroll in offers 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 spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Ask 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 low job placement rate or not many Bessemer AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Bessemer AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Right Bessemer AL CDL Driver Training
Selecting the right truck driving school is an important first step to starting your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must obtain the necessary training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you might want to look into 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 enroll in an independent CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Bessemer AL.