How to Select the Best CDL Training Classes near Mobile Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Mobile AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to obtain the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various factors that you'll need to examine before making your final choice. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Mobile residence. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the best way to make certain you'll receive the right education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow 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 discuss in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Is Required?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Mobile AL, an operator must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates 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). Following are short summaries for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more 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 greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Some 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 may also need endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Research a Trucking School
When you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can start the process of researching the Mobile AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other factors, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So following are several additional factors that you should research while conducting your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Mobile AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more common and is offered 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 caliber, and that they will get an ample amount 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 curriculum and training will meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help measure the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Mobile AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several 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 supply those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk 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 personal attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Mobile AL schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As earlier mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several 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 developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a little more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the best method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the instructors in person. 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 ability to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driving school will provide lots of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time can vary among schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Mobile AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from a number of truck driving schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having relationships 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 freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Mobile AL schools you are looking at 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 students. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As earlier mentioned, truck driving training is just one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the Mobile AL school you select 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 teacher should be prepared to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out 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 Mobile AL employers hiring their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Mobile AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Best Mobile AL CDL Driver Training
Selecting the ideal trucking school is a critical first step to starting your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape 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 obtain the proper training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you might need to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Mobile AL.