How to Choose a Truck Driving School near Lexington Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Lexington AL. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it’s essential to get the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several factors that you’ll need to think about prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Lexington home. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based only on price is not the ideal way to guarantee you’ll obtain the right education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Lexington AL, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 license classes that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that 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 together with 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate 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 more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more 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 need endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Research a Truck Driver School
As soon as you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the process of researching the Lexington AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can’t be emphasized enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other factors, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are some additional points that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Lexington AL area are accredited because of the stringent process and expense to the schools. However, 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 certain advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given lots of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school’s program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Lexington AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school’s history is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won’t share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn’t hurt to contact the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the following 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 obtaining the personal instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Lexington AL schools offer training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it’s important that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It’s also crucial that the teachers keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the best approach is to visit the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher’s ability to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver school will provide sufficient driving time to its students. Besides, 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 tools, they are no replacement 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 fluctuates between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Lexington AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It’s possible to receive free or discounted training from a number of trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is what’s known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships 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 freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Lexington AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As earlier noted, truck driving training is just one to two months long. With such a short duration, it’s important that the Lexington AL school you choose 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 commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you’re still working while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? The moment you have acquired your commercial driver’s license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Lexington AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Lexington AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enrolling in a Truck Driving School near Lexington AL?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Lexington Alabama area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
Lexington is a town in Lauderdale County, Alabama, United States. It is part of the Florence - Muscle Shoals Metropolitan Statistical Area known as "The Shoals". It incorporated in 1959. As of the 2010 census, the population of the town is 735, down from 840 in 2000. The current Mayor of Lexington is Sandra Killen-Burroughs, Wife of the Famous Race Car Driver Barry Burroughs.
As of the census of 2000, there were 840 people, 364 households, and 244 families residing in the town. The population density was 261.5 people per square mile (101.0/km²). There were 394 housing units at an average density of 122.6 per square mile (47.4/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 99.29% White, 0.24% Native American, and 0.48% from two or more races. 0.36% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 364 households out of which 27.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.2% were married couples living together, 8.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.7% were non-families. 30.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31 and the average family size was 2.86.
Choose the Ideal CDL School Lexington AL
Selecting the ideal truck driver school is a critical first step to starting your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must receive the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on money or financing, you may need to consider 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 truck driver school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It’s your decision. But no matter how you get your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Lexington AL.
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