How to Enroll in the Best Truck Driver Classes near East Florence Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near East Florence AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides good income and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to receive the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several variables that you'll want to examine prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your East Florence home. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based solely on price is not the optimal method to make sure you'll obtain the appropriate training. 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 select 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 discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Is Required?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and East Florence AL, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to select 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). Following are brief explanations for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required 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 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 certain types of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a Trucking School
Once you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can start the process of evaluating the East Florence AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other factors, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So following are a few additional factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the East Florence AL area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get lots of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. 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 business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of East Florence AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several 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 have relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personal instruction 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 professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of East Florence AL schools offer training courses that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As previously stated, it's important that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal approach is to check out the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver school will furnish ample driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time differs among 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 East Florence AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the East Florence AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As formerly mentioned, CDL training is just one to two months in length. With such a short term, it's important that the East Florence AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many East Florence AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other East Florence AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted.
Enroll in the Right East Florence AL CDL Training
Picking the ideal trucking school is an important first step to launching your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you may want to think about 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 choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in East Florence AL.