How to Decide on the Best Trucker Classes near Florence Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Florence AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to obtain the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are certain factors that you'll need to think about before making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Florence residence. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based solely on price is not the ideal way to guarantee you'll get the appropriate training. Don't forget, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Is Required?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Florence AL, a driver must obtain 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 subject of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will focus on 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). Below are short explanations 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. Several 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 CDL is required 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. Several 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 drive certain types of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Research a Trucker School
Once you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can start the process of researching the Florence AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, location and cost will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other variables, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are some additional things that you need to research while performing your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driving schools in the Florence AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and cost 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 certain advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual 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 curriculum and training will meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not be 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 first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personalized instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that claims it can teach you to be a truck driver 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 provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As previously mentioned, it's imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to visit the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driving school will provide plenty of 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. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time fluctuates between schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Florence AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get discounted or even free training from certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having associations with numerous 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 giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Florence AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask 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 facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is only about one to two months in length. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Florence AL school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing 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 obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have acquired 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 placement programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Florence AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driver 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 available. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.
Learn More About Florence Trucking Schools
Enroll in the Right Florence AL Truck Driving Training
Picking the right truck driving school is a critical first step to starting your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must get the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you might need to consider 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 trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will soon be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Florence AL.