How to Enroll in the Right Truck Driving School near Mobile Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Mobile AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible work prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to get the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several variables that you'll need to think about prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Mobile residence. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal means to ensure you'll get the right education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Mobile AL, an operator must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver 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 distinguishes 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 short explanations for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 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. 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 operate certain kinds of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a Trucking School
As soon as you have determined which CDL you would like to pursue, you can start the undertaking of researching the Mobile AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other factors, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So following are several additional points that you should research while conducting your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Mobile AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 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 indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Mobile AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers 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 getting the personalized attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Mobile AL schools offer training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As previously stated, it's important that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers stay up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors might be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to visit the school and speak with the instructors face to face. 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.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driver school will provide ample 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 driving a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time can vary 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. Get in touch with the Mobile AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get discounted or even free training from a number of truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with numerous 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 giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Mobile AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. 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 competing with graduates from other 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 Class Times Flexible? As earlier noted, truck driver training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's important that the Mobile AL school you select 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 spend 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 accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to start your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing 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 employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Mobile AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Mobile AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Select the Best Mobile AL CDL Training
Selecting the right truck driver school is an essential first step to launching your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must get the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may need to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose 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 choice. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be joining a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Mobile AL.