How to Decide on the Best CDL Training School near Mobile Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Mobile AL. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have found that a career as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible work prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several variables that you'll need to examine prior to making your final choice. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Mobile residence. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based solely on price is not the optimal method to make certain you'll receive the proper education. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective 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 rest of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Mobile AL, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will highlight 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 descriptions for the 2 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. Some 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 needed to drive 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also require endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a Trucker School
When you have determined which CDL you would like to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Mobile AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other factors, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are some more things that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Mobile AL area are accredited because of the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, 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 quality, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. 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 indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Mobile AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school's track record is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire 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 be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the individual attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that professes it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Mobile AL schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As previously mentioned, it's imperative 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 criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers stay current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal approach is to check out the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to 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.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a great 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 actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time varies among schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Mobile AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get discounted or even free training from some truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining associations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Mobile AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As formerly noted, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Mobile AL school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty 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 Assistance Offered? The moment you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Mobile AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? 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 aid being available. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Best Mobile AL Truck Driver Training
Choosing the ideal trucking 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 available and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must obtain the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. 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 by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose 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 decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Mobile AL.