How to Find a CDL Driving School near Opelika Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Opelika AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible job prospects. Whatever your reason is, it’s imperative to obtain the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of variables that you’ll need to think about prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Opelika home. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based only on price is not the optimal method to guarantee you’ll get the proper training. Don’t forget, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Opelika AL, an operator 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. Given that the subject of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will discuss 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). Following are brief explanations of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed 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. A few 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses 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 required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Research a Truck Driver School
When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can start the process of evaluating the Opelika AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can’t be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other issues, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So following are some additional factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Opelika AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest quality, 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 course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Opelika AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school’s track record is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won’t supply those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn’t hurt to contact the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be 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 concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that insists it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Opelika AL schools provide training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As earlier stated, it’s imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It’s also important that the teachers stay up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors might be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher’s qualification to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent trucking 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 operating a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time differs among schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Opelika AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It’s possible to get free or discounted training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Opelika AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As formerly mentioned, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief term, it’s imperative that the Opelika AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you’re having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing 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 accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Opelika AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Opelika AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance 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 Opelika AL?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Opelika Alabama area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
Opelika (pronounced /ˌoʊpəˈlaɪkə/ OH-pə-LY-kə) is a city in and the county seat of Lee County in the east central part of the State of Alabama. It is a principal city of the Auburn-Opelika Metropolitan Area. According to the 2013 Census Estimate, the population of Opelika was 28,635. The Auburn-Opelika, AL MSA with a population of 150,933 which, along with the Columbus, Georgia metropolitan area and Macon County, Alabama, comprises the greater Greater Columbus, Georgia, a region home to 501,649 residents.
The first white settlers in the area now known as Opelika arrived in the late 1830s and established a community called Lebanon. After the removal of the native Creek (Muscogee) peoples by federal troops in 1836-37, the area became known as "Opelika." This word taken from the Muskogee language means "large swamp".
In 1848, the Montgomery and West Point Railroad Company extended a rail line from Montgomery, Alabama, to Opelika, and in 1851, completed a connection to West Point, Georgia, thus connecting Opelika with Atlanta, Georgia. This line was the only direct rail route between New Orleans and the Eastern Seaboard. It rapidly became one of the primary trade lines for shipments of raw cotton from Southern plantations to the North. The Montgomery and West Point was soon joined by a rail connection to Columbus, Georgia, in 1855, and a connection to Birmingham, Alabama, in 1869. Almost overnight, Opelika became a regional hub for commerce.
Choose the Best Truck Driving School Opelika AL
Choosing the ideal trucking school is an essential first step to beginning your new occupation 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 available and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. Most importantly, you must obtain the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you might need to think about 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 select an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It’s your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Opelika AL.
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