How to Select the Right Truck Driving Classes near Northport Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Northport AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to receive the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are a number of variables that you'll need to examine before making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Northport home. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based only on price is not the ideal method to make certain you'll obtain the appropriate training. Don't forget, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills 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 pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Is Required?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Northport AL, an operator must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short explanations for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 needed to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Some 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 CDLs might also need endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Research a CDL School
When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can begin the process of evaluating the Northport AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are a few more things that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Northport AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual 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 comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help measure the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Northport AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the individual instruction 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 period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Northport AL schools offer training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors stay up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to check out the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also talk to a few 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.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver school will provide ample 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 essential training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time varies among schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Northport AL schools you are researching 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 enter into an agreement to drive for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining associations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Northport AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As previously mentioned, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the Northport 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 instructor should be willing to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Northport AL employers hiring their grads, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Northport AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Select the Right Northport AL Truck Driving Training
Selecting the ideal trucking school is an important first step to starting your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may want to look into 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 trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Northport AL.