How to Decide on the Best Truck Driving School near Florence Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Florence AL. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open road while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research and have found that a career as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to obtain the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several factors that you'll want to think about before making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Florence residence. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the optimal way to ensure you'll get the proper training. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal 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 discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Is Required?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Florence AL, a driver needs to get 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 focus on Class A and 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). Following are brief summaries for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive 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 operate 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 drive specific kinds of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Assess a Trucker School
Once you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can begin the process of researching the Florence AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other factors, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So below are some additional points that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to selecting, 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 because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more typical and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get lots of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 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 curriculum and training will comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Florence AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personalized attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that claims it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Florence AL schools provide training programs that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As earlier mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers may be a bit more subjective than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to visit the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driving school will provide sufficient driving time to its students. Besides, 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 tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time varies among schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Florence AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get free or discounted training from certain truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just make sure to find out 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 some states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier noted, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Florence AL school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to start 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 grads 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 few Florence AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? 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 aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Right Florence AL CDL Driver Training
Picking the appropriate truck driver school is an essential 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 mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must get the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may need to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent truck driver school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Florence AL.