How to Find a Trucking School near Huntsville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Huntsville AL. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it’s important to get the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various factors that you’ll want to think about before making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Huntsville home. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based solely on price is not the ideal means to ensure you’ll get the right education. Don’t forget, your goal 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 select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully in Alabama and within the United States, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to select a truck driver school near Huntsville AL, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind 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 explanations of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater 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 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. 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also require endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Research a Truck Driving School
When you have decided which CDL you would like to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Huntsville AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can’t be stressed enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other variables, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are some more points that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many Huntsville AL trucking schools are accredited because of the rigorous 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 required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested 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 actual driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. 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 standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Huntsville AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school’s track record is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won’t supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn’t hurt to contact the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it’s any higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that claims it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Huntsville AL schools provide training programs that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As already mentioned, it’s essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also vital that the instructors keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal approach is to check out the Huntsville AL school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher’s qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driving school will provide sufficient 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. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time fluctuates between schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Huntsville AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It’s possible to receive free or discounted training from some Huntsville AL trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what’s known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the schools you are considering are independent or captive 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 truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, find out if the Huntsville AL schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As earlier noted, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it’s important that the Huntsville AL school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you’re having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to dedicate 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 Placement Provided? Once you have obtained your commercial driver’s license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to start your new career in Huntsville AL. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. 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 need to be submitted in Huntsville AL.
Why Did You Want to Become a Trucker?When preparing to interview for a Trucking job, it's helpful to consider questions you could be asked. One of the questions that interviewers typically ask truck driving prospects is "What made you select trucking as a career?". What the interviewer is trying to learn is not only the personal reasons you may have for being a trucking operator, but also what attributes and skills you have that make you exceptional at what you do. You will likely be asked questions pertaining exclusively to trucking, as well as a certain number of routine interview questions, so you should prepare some ideas about how you want to address them. Since there are numerous factors that go into choosing a career, you can address this primary question in a multitude of ways. When readying an answer, aim to include the reasons the profession interests you as well as the strengths you possess that make you an excellent truck driver and the ideal candidate for the position. Don't make an effort to memorize an answer, but take down several concepts and anecdotes that pertain to your own strengths and experiences. Reviewing sample answers can help you to develop your own concepts, and give you ideas of what to include to impress the recruiter.
Choose the Right CDL School Huntsville AL
Choosing the ideal truck driving school is an essential first step to beginning your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. Most importantly, you must get the appropriate training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might want to look into 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 enroll in an independent school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It’s your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Huntsville AL.
A Bit About Huntsville Alabama
Huntsville is a city located primarily in Madison County in the Appalachian region of northern Alabama. Huntsville is the county seat of Madison County. The city extends west into neighboring Limestone County and south into Morgan County. Huntsville's population was 180,105 as of the 2010 census. Huntsville is the third-largest city in Alabama and the largest city in the five-county Huntsville-Decatur-Albertville, AL Combined Statistical Area, which at the 2013 census estimate had a total population of 683,871. The Huntsville Metropolitan Area's population was 417,593 in 2010 to become the 2nd largest in Alabama. Huntsville metro's population reached 441,000 by 2014.
It grew across nearby hills north of the Tennessee River, adding textile mills, then munitions factories, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and the United States Army Aviation and Missile Command nearby at the Redstone Arsenal. The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Huntsville to its "America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations for 2010" list.
The first settlers of the area were Muscogee-speaking people. The Chickasaw traditionally claim to have settled around 1300 after coming east across the Mississippi. A combination of factors, including depopulation due to disease, land disputes between the Choctaw and Cherokee, and pressures from the United States government had largely depopulated the area prior to 1805. That year Revolutionary War veteran John Hunt settled in the land around the Big Spring. The 1805 Treaty with the Chickasaws and the Cherokee Treaty of Washington of 1806 ceded native claims to the United States Government. The area was subsequently purchased by LeRoy Pope, who named the area Twickenham after the home village of his distant kinsman Alexander Pope.
Twickenham was carefully planned, with streets laid out on the northeast to southwest direction based on the flow of Big Spring. However, due to anti-British sentiment during this period, the name was changed to "Huntsville" to honor John Hunt, who had been forced to move to other land south of the new city.
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