How to Find a CDL Driving School near Decatur Alabama
Best wishes on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Decatur AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible work opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it’s important to obtain the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various factors that you’ll need to examine before making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Decatur home. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based only on price is not the ideal way to make sure you’ll obtain the proper education. Don’t forget, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Require?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully in Alabama and within the USA, a driver must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 license classes that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driver school near Decatur AL, we will highlight Class A and Class 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). Following are short explanations for 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 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 CDL is required to drive 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 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 may also require endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Research a Trucking School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you wish to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the Decatur AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can’t be stressed enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other factors, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So below are several more things that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many Decatur AL truck driving schools are accredited due to the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, 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 a number of advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 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 meet the very high benchmarks 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 operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Decatur AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school’s history is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won’t supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker 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 instructors that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any greater, 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 claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Decatur AL schools provide 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 mentioned, it’s important that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also crucial that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to check out the Decatur AL school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher’s qualification to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent trucking school will furnish plenty of driving time to its students. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Decatur AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive free or discounted training from certain Decatur AL trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific 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 instead of having affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the Decatur AL schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As formerly noted, truck driver training is only about one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it’s important that the Decatur AL school you enroll in provides 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 willing to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you’re still employed while attending 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 received your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to begin your new profession in Decatur AL. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. 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 in Decatur AL.
Why Did You Decide to Be a Tractor Trailer Operator?When preparing to interview for a Trucking job, it's helpful to reflect on questions you might be asked. Among the things that interviewers often ask truck driving applicants is "What compelled you to decide on trucking as a profession?". What the interviewer is hoping to uncover is not only the personal reasons you may have for becoming a truck driver, but additionally what qualities and talents you have that make you outstanding at your profession. You will undoubtedly be asked questions relating exclusively to trucking, along with a significant number of general interview questions, so you need to prepare some ideas about how you want to respond to them. Considering there are so many variables that go into selecting a career, you can answer this primary question in a variety of ways. When readying an answer, try to include the reasons the profession interests you along with the strengths you have that make you an excellent truck driver and the best choice for the job. Don't try to memorize an answer, but write down some concepts and talking points that pertain to your own strengths and experiences. Reviewing sample answers can help you to develop your own thoughts, and provide ideas of what to discuss to wow the interviewer.
Choose the Ideal Truck Driver School Decatur AL
Choosing the right truck driving school is a critical first step to starting your new occupation 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 appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you may need to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even 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 choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It’s your choice. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Decatur AL.
A Bit About Decatur Alabama
Decatur is a city in Morgan and Limestone counties in the State of Alabama. The city, affectionately known as "The River City", is located in Northern Alabama on the banks of Wheeler Lake, along the Tennessee River. It is the largest city and county seat of Morgan County. The population in 2010 was 55,683.
Decatur is also the core city of the two-county large Decatur, Alabama metropolitan area which had an estimated population of 153,374 in 2013. Combined with the Huntsville Metropolitan Area, the two create the Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area, of which Decatur is the second largest city.
Like many southern cities in the early 19th century, Decatur's early success was based upon its location along a river. Railroad routes and boating traffic pushed the city to the front of North Alabama's economic atmosphere. The city rapidly grew into a large economic center within the Tennessee Valley and was a hub for travelers and cargo between Nashville and Mobile, as well as Chattanooga and New Orleans. Throughout the 20th century, the city experienced steady growth, but was eclipsed as the regional economic center by the fast-growing Huntsville during the space race. The city now finds its economy heavily based on manufacturing, cargo transit, and hi-tech industries such as General Electric, and the United Launch Alliance.
Initially the area was known as "Rhodes Ferry Landing", named for Dr. Henry W. Rhodes, an early landowner who operated a ferry that crossed the Tennessee River in the 1810s at the present-day location of Rhodes Ferry Park. The city was incorporated as Decatur in 1821. It was named in honor of Stephen Decatur; after he was killed in a duel in 1820, President Monroe directed that the Alabama town be named for him.
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