How to Choose the Right CDL Driving School near Tuscumbia Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Tuscumbia AL. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it’s imperative to receive the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are a number of variables that you’ll need to think about prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be important, especially if you need to commute from your Tuscumbia residence. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based only on price is not the best means to make sure you’ll obtain the appropriate education. Don’t forget, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver’s license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Tuscumbia AL, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 license classes that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will focus on Class A and 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). Below are short explanations of the two 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 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 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. 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also require endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Research a Truck Driving School
After you have decided which CDL you wish to pursue, you can begin the process of evaluating the Tuscumbia AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can’t be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other issues, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So below are several additional things that you need to research while performing your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Tuscumbia AL area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, 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 a number of advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive lots of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual 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 comply with the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Tuscumbia AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school’s history is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won’t share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn’t hurt to contact the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors 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 greater, then students will not be obtaining 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 drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Tuscumbia AL schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As previously stated, it’s important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It’s also important that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to visit the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher’s ability to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, a great trucking school will furnish 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 driving a truck. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time differs among schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Tuscumbia AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It’s possible to get free or discounted training from some truck driving schools if you make a commitment to drive for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is what’s known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than 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 less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Tuscumbia AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As previously noted, truck driving training is only about one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it’s essential that the Tuscumbia AL school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you’re having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared 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 needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have acquired your commercial driver’s license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads 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 Tuscumbia AL employers hiring their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Tuscumbia AL area vocational or trade 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 least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted.
Thinking of a Truck Drivier School near Tuscumbia AL?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Tuscumbia Alabama area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
Tuscumbia was the hometown of Helen Keller (Ivy Green) and much of the city is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Tuscumbia Historic District. The city serves as the location for the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.
Tuscumbia had its beginnings when the Michael Dixon family arrived about 1816. They traded with Chief Tucumseh for the Tuscumbia Valley and built their home at the head of the big spring. From these humble dwellings quickly developed a village known as the Big Spring Community. The men of the community requested that the state legislature incorporate them as a city. The town was incorporated in 1820 as Ococoposa and is one of Alabama's oldest towns. In 1821, its name was changed to Big Spring and on December 22, 1822, to Tuscumbia, after the Chief Rainmaker of the Chickasaws.
Although shoals on the nearby Tennessee River made the river nearly impassable, a federal highway completed in 1820 provided the area with good access to markets. Tuscumbia soon became the center for agriculture in northern Alabama. A line to the town on the Tuscumbia, Courtland and Decatur Railroad was completed in 1832, and by 1850 Tuscumbia was a major railroad hub for train traffic throughout the South.
Trucking Schools Tuscumbia AL
Selecting the appropriate trucking school is an essential first step to beginning your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver’s success. You originally came to our website because of your interest in Trucking Schools. But first and foremost, you must receive the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you might want to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It’s your choice. But regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Tuscumbia AL.
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