How to Select the Right CDL Training School near Florence Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Florence AL. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have found that a career as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several factors that you'll need to consider before making your final selection. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Florence residence. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based solely on price is not the optimal means to make certain you'll get the proper training. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the remainder 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 drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Florence AL, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will address Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates 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). Below are brief explanations for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 more 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also need endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Research a Trucker School
As soon as you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Florence AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other issues, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are several additional factors that you should research while performing your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Florence AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real 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 training and curriculum will meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated 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 first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personalized instruction 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 be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Florence AL schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As previously mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a little more subjective than other standards, and possibly the best method is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to 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.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driving school will provide ample driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time varies between schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Florence AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get discounted or even free training from some truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Florence AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive 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 trucking 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 benefit is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As previously noted, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief term, it's important that the Florence AL school you select provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having a hard time 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 employed while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Florence AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Florence AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enroll in the Right Florence AL CDL Training
Picking the right truck driving school is a critical first step to launching your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, you must obtain the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on money or financing, you might need to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucker 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 obtain your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Florence AL.