How to Select a Trucking School near Sheffield Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Sheffield AL. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open road while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it’s important to obtain the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several factors that you’ll need to examine before making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Sheffield home. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the optimal means to make certain you’ll receive the proper education. Just remember, your goal is to master 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 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 CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Require?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully in Alabama and within the United States, a driver needs to obtain 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 select a truck driver school near Sheffield AL, we will highlight 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 short summaries of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to operate 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 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 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. A few 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 need endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Research a Truck Driver School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the Sheffield AL trucking schools that you are considering. As already discussed, location and cost will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can’t be stressed enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other factors, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So following are some additional factors that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many Sheffield AL trucking schools are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 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 curriculum and training will fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Sheffield AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school’s track record is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won’t supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any higher, then students will not be receiving the personal attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that claims it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Sheffield AL schools offer training programs that range from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As already mentioned, it’s essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also important that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to pay a visit to the Sheffield AL school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher’s qualification to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driving school will furnish sufficient 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. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Sheffield AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get free or discounted training from some Sheffield AL truck driver 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 having affiliations with a wide range of 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 restrict your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out if the Sheffield AL schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier noted, CDL training is just one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it’s imperative that the Sheffield AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you’re having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you’re still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Offered? The moment you have attained your commercial driver’s license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to start your new profession in Sheffield AL. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many employers hiring their grads, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted in Sheffield AL.
Why Did You Want to Be a Truck Driver?When getting ready to interview for a Trucking position, it's helpful to reflect on questions you may be asked. One of the things that hiring managers typically ask truck driving candidates is "What compelled you to choose trucking as a profession?". What the interviewer is hoping to uncover is not only the personal reasons you might have for being a trucker, but also what qualities and skills you possess that make you good at your profession. You will probably be asked questions pertaining exclusively to trucking, in addition to a certain number of routine interview questions, so you need to organize some ideas about how you want to address them. Given that there are several variables that go into choosing a career, you can address this primary question in a number of ways. When preparing an answer, try to include the reasons the profession appeals to you along with the talents you possess that make you an outstanding truck driver and the leading candidate for the position. Don't attempt to memorize an answer, but take down several concepts and talking points that pertain to your own strengths and experiences. Reading through sample responses can assist you to formulate your own thoughts, and inspire ideas of what to include to wow the recruiter.
Choose the Ideal Truck Driver School Sheffield AL
Picking the ideal truck driver school is a critical first step to launching your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver’s success. Most importantly, you must receive the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may need to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It’s your decision. But no matter how you receive your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Sheffield AL.
A Bit About Sheffield Alabama
Sheffield is a city in Colbert County, Alabama, United States, and is included in the Shoals metropolitan area. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city was 9,039. Sheffield is the birthplace of "country-soul pioneer" and songwriter Arthur Alexander, French horn player Willie Ruff, notable attorney, actor, former senator and presidential contender Fred Thompson, Watergate committee U.S. Senator Howell Heflin and U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, whose father was working in nearby Athens when he was born. It sometimes is referred to as "the City of Senators" due to the births of Heflin, McConnell and Thompson within its borders. Col. Harland Sanders worked in the Sheffield depot for Southern Railway in the 1900s. It is also home to the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio where many popular 20th century musicians recorded their work, including Alexander and Ruff. It is the site of historic Helen Keller Hospital, formerly known as Colbert County Hospital and originally constructed in 1921. It was changed to Helen Keller Hospital in 1979, and Keller's birthplace Ivy Green is located less than one mile southwest of the hospital in adjacent Tuscumbia.
Sheffield is located in eastern Colbert County at 34°45′35″N 87°41′41″W / 34.75972°N 87.69472°W / 34.75972; -87.69472 (34.759721, -87.694592), on the south bank of the Tennessee River. Sheffield is bordered to the south by the city of Tuscumbia, to the southeast by Muscle Shoals, and to the north, across the river, by Florence.
Sheffield was one of the Colbert County sites of embarkation by riverboat and barge on the Tennessee River during the forced relocation of Eastern and Southern United States Indian tribes, known as the Trail of Tears. The embarkation site was at what is now the Spring Creek boat launch and park area.
Sheffield was the home of Muscle Shoals Sound Studios at 3614 Jackson Highway and later at 1000 Alabama Avenue. Cher, The Rolling Stones, The Osmonds, Aretha Franklin, Bob Seger, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Simon & Garfunkel, The Staple Singers and many others recorded the biggest hits of their careers in this small studio, that remains well known and respected throughout the music industry.
More Cities of Interest in Alabama