How to Find the Right CDL Driving Classes near Mobile Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Mobile AL. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to receive the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various variables that you'll want to think about prior to making your final selection. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Mobile residence. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the best method to ensure you'll obtain the right education. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose 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 talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Mobile AL, a driver needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief summaries for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 Commercial Drivers License 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. Several of the vehicles that drivers may be qualified to operate 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 require endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a CDL School
When you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Mobile AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other issues, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So following are a few more things that you should research while performing your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Mobile AL area are accredited due to the demanding process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, 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 a number of 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 mandates 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's program is certified (the program, 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 determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school normally 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 begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. 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 compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the individual 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 professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Mobile AL schools offer training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As already mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driver school will provide sufficient driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Mobile AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from a number of truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Mobile AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As previously noted, truck driving training is only about one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the Mobile AL school you choose 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 prepared to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. 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 Placement Provided? Once you have received your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Mobile AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Mobile AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Best Mobile AL CDL Driver Training
Picking the right truck driver school is an essential first step to beginning your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that shape 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 get the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you might want 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 company of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you get your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Mobile AL.