How to Enroll in the Right Trucker School near Florence Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Florence AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to receive the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several factors that you'll need to consider before making your final selection. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you need to commute from your Florence home. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based only on price is not the optimal means to guarantee you'll get the proper training. Don't forget, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Is Required?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Florence AL, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as 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 CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more 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 Commercial Drivers License is required to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more 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 might also require endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Research a Truck Driving School
After you have decided which CDL you wish to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the Florence AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other issues, such as 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 need to research while conducting your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Florence 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 obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Florence AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the next section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personal 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 professes it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Florence AL schools offer training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As previously mentioned, it's important that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors may be a little more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the best approach is to visit the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driving school will provide 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 driving a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time varies among schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide 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 Captive or Independent ? You can receive free or discounted training from certain truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Florence AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is only about one to two months long. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Florence AL school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Florence AL employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Florence AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Select the Right Florence AL Truck Driver Training
Selecting the appropriate truck driver school is an essential first step to starting your new profession 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 many options offered and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must receive the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on cash or financing, you may want to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases 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 choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you get your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Florence AL.