How to Pick a CDL Driving School near Arlington Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Arlington AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it’s essential to get the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various variables that you’ll need to think about before making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Arlington residence. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the best means to guarantee you’ll obtain the right training. Don’t forget, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you decide on 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 commercial driver’s license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Arlington AL, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will discuss 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 for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License 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 operators may be able to drive 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 more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater 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 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 operate.
How to Assess a Trucking School
After you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can start the process of evaluating the Arlington AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your primary 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 if not more important. So below are several additional factors that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Arlington AL area are accredited because of the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, 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 several advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get lots 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 curriculum and training will measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Arlington AL schools had to start 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 graduating students. If a school won’t provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker 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 instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors in the next section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it’s any greater, then students will not be getting the personal attention 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 teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Arlington AL schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As earlier stated, it’s important that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also crucial that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the best approach is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher’s ability to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driver school will provide ample driving time to its students. Besides, 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 simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training methods, they are no replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Arlington AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get free or discounted training from some trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specified 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 numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Arlington AL schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As previously noted, truck driver training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it’s essential that the Arlington 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 instructor should be prepared to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you’re still working while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Arlington AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Arlington AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enrolling in a Truck Driving School near Arlington AL?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Arlington Alabama area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
Arlington County, Virginia
Arlington County is a county in the Commonwealth of Virginia, often referred to simply as Arlington or Arlington, Virginia. In 2016, the county's population was estimated at 230,050, making it the sixth-largest county in Virginia, or the fourth-largest city if it were incorporated as such. It is the 5th highest-income county in the U.S. by median family income and has the highest concentration of singles in the region.
The county is coterminous with the U.S. Census Bureau's census-designated place of Arlington. Though a county, it is also treated as the second-largest principal city of the Washington metropolitan area.
The county is situated in Northern Virginia on the southwestern bank of the Potomac River directly across from the District of Columbia, of which it was once a part. With a land area of 26 square miles (67 km2), Arlington is the geographically smallest self-governing county in the U.S., and by reason of state law regarding population density, has no incorporated towns within its borders. Due to the county's proximity to downtown Washington, D.C., Arlington is home to many important installations for the capital region and U.S. government, including the Pentagon, Reagan National Airport, and Arlington National Cemetery. Many schools and universities have campuses in Arlington, most prominently the Antonin Scalia Law School of George Mason University.
Choose the Right CDL School Arlington AL
Picking the right trucking school is a critical first step to launching your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn 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 proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you may need to think about 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 select an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It’s your choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Arlington AL.
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