How to Decide on the Right CDL Driving School near Northport Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Northport AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible job prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to get the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various variables that you'll want to think about before making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Northport residence. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal means to make certain you'll get the right education. Don't forget, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Is Required?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Northport AL, a driver needs to get 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. Since the topic of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will address Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates 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 descriptions of the 2 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. Some 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 needed 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 drive certain kinds of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a Trucking School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you wish to obtain, you can start the process of researching the Northport AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other variables, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are several more factors that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Northport AL area are accredited because of the stringent 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 obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 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 training and curriculum will fulfill 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 business. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Northport AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personal attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Northport AL schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As previously stated, it's essential that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers may be a little more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the best approach 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 satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driving school will furnish 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 operating 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 he or she will become. And even though driving time varies between schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Northport AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain free or discounted training from some truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Northport AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As previously noted, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Northport AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an 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 holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? As soon as you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Northport AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Northport AL area technical or vocational 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 a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.
Select the Best Northport AL Truck Driving Training
Picking the right truck driving school is an important first step to starting your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you may need to look into 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 truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will soon be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Northport AL.