How to Select a CDL Driving School near Florence Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Florence AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it’s imperative to obtain the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various factors that you’ll need to consider before making your final selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Florence residence. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the ideal method to ensure you’ll obtain the proper training. Just remember, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver’s license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Require?
To drive commercial vehicles legally in Alabama and within the United States, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driver school near Florence AL, 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 in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short explanations of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 needed 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 proper required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a CDL School
Once you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can start the process of researching the Florence AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can’t be emphasized enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other issues, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are some more points that you need to research while performing your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few Florence AL truck driver schools are accredited due to the stringent process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 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 benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Florence AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school’s track record is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won’t supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that insists it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Florence AL schools offer training courses that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it’s important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also important that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to check out the Florence AL school and talk to the instructors in person. 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.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver school will provide lots of driving time to its students. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Florence AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive discounted or even free training from certain Florence AL trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining associations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the Florence AL schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As previously noted, truck driver training is only about one to two months long. With such a short term, it’s important that the Florence AL school you select provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you’re having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you’re still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to begin your new profession in Florence AL. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed in Florence AL.
Why Did You Choose to Be a Trucker?When preparing to interview for a Trucking position, it's advantageous to review questions you could be asked. One of the questions that recruiters often ask truck driving applicants is "What made you choose trucking as a career?". What the interviewer is attempting to uncover is not merely the private reasons you may have for being a trucking operator, but also what attributes and skills you have that make you good at your profession. You will probably be asked questions relating specifically to trucking, in addition to a certain number of routine interview questions, so you should ready a number of ideas about how you want to address them. Since there are several factors that go into selecting a career, you can respond to this primary question in a multitude of ways. When readying an answer, try to include the reasons the work interests you in addition to the abilities you have that make you an exceptional truck driver and the leading candidate for the job. Don't try to memorize an answer, but write down a few concepts and talking points that pertain to your personal strengths and experiences. Reading through sample answers can assist you to develop your own thoughts, and provide ideas of what to discuss to wow the interviewer.
Select the Best CDL School Florence AL
Picking the appropriate truck driver school is a critical first step to starting your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver’s success. But first and foremost, you must receive the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may need to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It’s your choice. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Florence AL.
A Bit About Florence Alabama
Florence is a city in and the county seat of Lauderdale County, Alabama, United States, in the state's northwest corner.
According to the 2010 census, the city's population was 39,319.
Florence is the largest and principal city of the Florence-Muscle Shoals Metropolitan Statistical Area (which includes Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, and Tuscumbia metropolitan areas in Colbert and Lauderdale counties). Florence is considered northwestern Alabama's primary economic hub.
Annual tourism events include the W. C. Handy Music Festival in the summer and the Renaissance Faire in the fall. Landmarks in Florence include the Rosenbaum House, the only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home located in Alabama.
More Cities of Interest in Alabama