How to Enroll in the Right Truck Driver School near East Florence Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near East Florence AL. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to receive the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several variables that you'll want to consider before making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your East Florence residence. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the ideal means to make certain you'll obtain the appropriate education. Just remember, 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 objective in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and East Florence AL, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can apply 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 differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief descriptions of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to operate 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 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 required 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. 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 require endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Research a Trucker School
Once you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can begin the process of evaluating the East Florence AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, cost and location will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other factors, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So following are some more points that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driving schools in the East Florence AL area are accredited because of the rigorous 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 standard, and that they will get lots of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual 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 clue to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top East Florence AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the individual attention 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 train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most East Florence AL schools offer training programs that range from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to check out the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driving school will furnish ample driving time to its students. After all, 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 methods, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the East Florence AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from some truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just remember to ask if the East Florence AL schools you are considering 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 driver schools for its graduates. 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 accommodating than battling with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is just one to two months in length. With such a short term, it's imperative that the East Florence AL school you select 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 willing to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? As soon as you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are looking at 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 companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many East Florence AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other East Florence AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Right East Florence AL CDL Training
Selecting the right truck driving school is a critical first step to launching your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must receive the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may want to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in East Florence AL.