How to Pick a Trucking School near Columbiana Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Columbiana AL. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it’s essential 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 think about before making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Columbiana residence. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the optimal means to make certain you’ll receive the right education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow 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 discuss in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully in Alabama and within the USA, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to select a truck driving school near Columbiana AL, we will address 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). Below are brief descriptions for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more 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 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. Several 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 drive certain kinds of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a CDL School
Once you have determined which CDL you wish to pursue, you can start the undertaking of researching the Columbiana AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can’t be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other variables, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So below are some more factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few Columbiana AL truck driving schools are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual 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 training and curriculum will meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly ranked 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 Columbiana AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school’s history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won’t provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the following section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it’s any higher, then students will not be receiving the personal instruction they will need. This is particularly 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 be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Columbiana AL schools offer training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced 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. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also vital that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal approach is to check out the Columbiana AL school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher’s ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent trucking school will provide plenty of driving time to its students. Besides, isn’t that what it’s all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time differs among schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Columbiana AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It’s possible to get discounted or even free training from certain Columbiana AL truck driver 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 rather than maintaining affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the schools you are looking at are captive or independent 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 trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out if the Columbiana AL schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier noted, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief term, it’s imperative that the Columbiana AL school you choose 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 instructor should be prepared to spend more time with you until you are proficient. 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 Assistance Offered? As soon as you have obtained your commercial driver’s license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to begin your new profession in Columbiana AL. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted in Columbiana AL.
Why Did You Choose to Become a Truck Driver?When getting ready to interview for a Trucking position, it's a good idea to reflect on questions you could be asked. One of the things that recruiters typically ask truck driving candidates is "What drove you to pick trucking as a profession?". What the interviewer is attempting to discover is not only the personal reasons you may have for becoming a trucker, but also what qualities and talents you possess that make you good at your profession. You will likely be asked questions relating specifically to trucking, along with a certain number of routine interview questions, so you must organize some strategies about how you would like to address them. Since there are numerous 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 profession appeals to you in addition to the abilities you have that make you an excellent truck driver and the leading candidate for the position. Don't try to memorize an answer, but jot down some concepts and talking points that pertain to your own experiences and strengths. Going over sample answers can assist you to prepare your own thoughts, and give you ideas of what to discuss to enthuse the interviewer.
Pick the Best Trucking School Columbiana AL
Choosing the right truck driving school is an essential first step to beginning your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. Most importantly, you must obtain the necessary training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on cash or financing, you might want 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 select an independent school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It’s your decision. But no matter how you get your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Columbiana AL.
A Bit About Columbiana Alabama
Columbiana, originally called Columbia, was selected as the county seat of Shelby County in 1826 over rivals Calera and Montevallo. After the selection as the county seat, Columbiana celebrated by drilling holes in a large pine tree and packing it with gunpowder. The tree was blown up and the sound could be heard for miles. Later in 1826, the courthouse was moved to an old school building in Columbiana.
An act of the Alabama Legislature officially changed the name of Shelby County’s county seat to Columbiana on January 13, 1832. Columbiana was incorporated on December 5, 1837 with corporate limits one-quarter of a mile in each direction from the public square.
In 1854, the decision was made to build a larger courthouse at the south end of “Silk Stocking Road”, now Main Street. From 1854 to 1908 several additions and changes were made to the courthouse. During the American Civil War, Columbiana was connected to the nearby town of Shelby by the Shelby Iron Company Railroad, which connected the Shelby Iron Works to the Alabama and Tennessee River Railroad. The Iron Works supplied iron to the C.B. Churchill and Company foundry, which moved to Columbiana in 1862 after the fall of Corinth, Mississippi. The Churchill foundry made eight and ten pound shot, eight and ten pound shells, and shells for Blakely rifles. The C.B. Churchill and Company foundry, Shelby Iron Works and the railroad were destroyed by Union forces on March 31, 1865, as part of Wilson's Raid.
Moving the courthouse to Columbiana was not necessarily popular in 1826 and there have been numerous attempts to relocate the county seat over the years. In 1901, the Alabama Constitutional Convention addressed the issue by including Section 41 in the new state constitution. Section 41 prohibited a move of the Shelby County seat from Columbiana unless a vote of the people was held, the only county in Alabama with such a designation.
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