How to Select the Best Trucker School near Florence Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Florence AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open road while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to obtain the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain factors that you'll need to think about before making your final selection. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you need to commute from your Florence residence. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based solely on price is not the optimal means to make certain you'll get the proper training. Just remember, your goal 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 purpose 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 remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Florence AL, an operator must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short summaries of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL 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 needed to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more 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 may also require endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Research a Truck Driving School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can begin the process of assessing the Florence AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other issues, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So following are a few additional points that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Florence AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, 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 certain advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual 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 satisfy the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Florence AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personal instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that claims it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Florence AL schools provide training courses that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As earlier stated, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. 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 crucial that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the best method is to check out the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver school will furnish lots of 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 important 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 become. Although driving time varies among schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Florence AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from some truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining affiliations with numerous 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 surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Florence AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As formerly noted, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief term, it's essential that the 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 particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Florence AL employers recruiting their grads, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Florence AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.
Select the Best Florence AL CDL Driver Training
Picking the right truck driving 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 a number of options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Florence AL.