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How to Find the Right CDL Driving Classes near Northport Alabama

Northport Alabama tractor trailer stopped on of roadCongrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Northport AL. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to obtain the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain factors that you'll need to consider prior to making your final selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Northport 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 obtain the right training. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional 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 cover in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.

Which CDL Is Required?

Northport Alabama concrete mixer truck

To drive commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Northport AL, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief summaries of the two classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive 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 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 required to drive 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. A few 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 may also need endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.

How to Research a CDL School

Northport Alabama CDL school campus

Once you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Northport AL trucking schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, location and cost will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other factors, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So following are some additional points that you should research while performing your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Northport AL area are accredited because of the demanding process and expense 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 certain advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 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 satisfy the very high standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Operation? One clue to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated 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 top Northport AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement 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 a large number of contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in good standing.

How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next section. 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 personalized 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 claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Northport AL schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Instructors? As earlier stated, it's imperative that the instructors 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 an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the best method is to check out the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.

Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driver school will provide ample driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Northport AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having affiliations with a wide range of 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 surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Northport AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Classes Flexible? As previously noted, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Northport AL school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.

Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance 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 placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Northport AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Northport 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 examining have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.

Find Out More About Northport Trucker Schools

Select the Best Northport AL CDL Driver Training

Picking the ideal truck driver school is a critical first step to beginning your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator.  However, you must receive the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might want to look into 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 truck driver school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. 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 truck driver in Northport AL.