How to Decide on a CDL Driving School near Anniston Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Anniston AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it’s imperative to obtain the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several factors that you’ll want to consider before making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Anniston residence. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the ideal way to make certain you’ll obtain the right education. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow 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? The answer to that question 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 commercial driver’s license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Anniston AL, an operator must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 classes of licenses that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will focus on Class A and B licenses. What differentiates 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 short explanations of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate 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 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 drivers may be qualified to operate 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 need endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Anniston AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can’t be stressed enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other variables, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So below are some additional factors that you need to research while conducting your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Anniston AL area are accredited because of the rigorous 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 obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get lots of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 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 fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help evaluate 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 stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Anniston AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also learn what the school’s history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won’t provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn’t hurt to check with the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any higher, then students will not be receiving the individual attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that claims it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Anniston AL schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As already stated, it’s important that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also important that the teachers stay up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal method is to visit the school and talk to the instructors face to face. 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 qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driving school will furnish plenty 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. Even though 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 gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time differs between schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Anniston AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get discounted or even free training from some truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Anniston AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As previously mentioned, truck driving training is only about one to two months in length. With such a short duration, it’s essential that the Anniston AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you’re having difficulty learning a certain 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 must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have received your commercial driver’s license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Anniston AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Anniston AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Enrolling in a Truck Driving School near Anniston AL?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Anniston Alabama area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
Anniston is the county seat of Calhoun County in Alabama and is one of two urban centers/principal cities of and included in the Anniston-Oxford Metropolitan Statistical Area. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city was 23,106. According to 2013 Census estimates, the city had a population of 22,666.
Though the surrounding area was settled much earlier, the mineral resources in the area of Anniston were not exploited until the Civil War. The Confederate States of America then operated an iron furnace near present-day downtown Anniston, until it was finally destroyed by raiding Union cavalry in early 1865. Later, cast iron for sewer systems became the focus of Anniston's industrial output. Cast iron pipe, also called soil pipe, was popular until the advent of plastic pipe in the 1960s.
In 1872, the Woodstock Iron Company, organized by Samuel Noble and Union Gen. Daniel Tyler, rebuilt the furnace on a much larger scale, and started a planned community named Woodstock, soon renamed "Annie's Town" for Annie Scott Tyler, Daniel's daughter and wife of railroad president Alfred L. Tyler. Anniston was chartered as a town in 1873.
Pick the Right CDL School Anniston AL
Picking the ideal truck driver school is an important first step to starting your new vocation 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 several options offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on cash or financing, you might want to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent truck driver school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many associated 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 our country move as a professional trucker in Anniston AL.
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