How to Choose a Truck Driver School near Saint Stephens Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Saint Stephens AL. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it’s imperative to receive the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain variables that you’ll need to consider before making your final selection. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Saint Stephens home. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based solely on price is not the optimal means to make sure you’ll receive the proper education. Just remember, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge 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 choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss 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 Will You Require?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Saint Stephens AL, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The three classes of licenses that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief explanations for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 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. Several 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 might also require endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Assess a Truck Driving School
When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Saint Stephens AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can’t be emphasized enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other variables, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So following are some more points that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Saint Stephens AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is offered 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 caliber, and that they will get lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real 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 benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated 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 Saint Stephens AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school’s history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won’t supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it’s any higher, then students will not be getting the individual attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that professes it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Saint Stephens 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 Good are the Instructors? As already stated, it’s important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It’s also vital that the teachers stay up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a little more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal approach is to visit the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher’s qualification to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a good 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. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, 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 differs between schools, a reasonable 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 Saint Stephens AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive free or discounted training from some truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Saint Stephens AL schools you are looking at are captive or independent 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 trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier noted, CDL training is just one to two months in length. With such a short term, it’s essential that the Saint Stephens AL school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you’re having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to devote 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 obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have acquired 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 rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Saint Stephens AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Saint Stephens AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Enrolling in a Truck Driving School near Saint Stephens AL?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Saint Stephens Alabama area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
St. Stephens, Alabama
St. Stephens is an unincorporated census-designated place in Washington County, Alabama, United States. As of the 2010 census, its population was 495. Located near the Tombigbee River in the southwestern part of the state and 67 miles north of Mobile, it is composed of two distinct sites: Old St. Stephens and New St. Stephens. The Old St. Stephens site lies directly on the river and is no longer inhabited. It was the territorial capital of the Alabama Territory. Now encompassed by the Old St. Stephens Historical Park, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Changes in the territorial capital and transportation resulted in the Old St. Stephens site being bypassed by development. "New" St. Stephens developed two miles inland around a railway station, but adjacent to the old site. It is the location of the post office, Baptist and Methodist churches, and residences. It has one building listed on the National Register and another on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.
Old St. Stephens was situated on a limestone bluff that the Native Americans called Hobucakintopa, at the fall line along the Tombigbee River where rocky shoals forced the end of navigation for boats traveling north from Mobile, 67 miles to the south. As early as 1772, British surveyor Bernard Romans noted that "sloops and schooners may come up to this rapid; therefore, I judge some considerable settlement will take place." By 1789, with the area back under Spanish control, the governor of Mobile, Juan Vincente Folch, established a fort and outpost here. By 1796 over 190 white inhabitants, mostly settlers from the United States, and their 97 or so slaves were living around the fort. With the Treaty of San Lorenzo, Spain turned the fort over to the United States government on February 5, 1799. It was included in the Mississippi Territory.
Select the Right Truck Driving School Saint Stephens AL
Choosing the ideal truck driver school is an essential first step to starting your new occupation 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 a number of options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver’s success. Most importantly, you must receive the appropriate training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on money or financing, you might want to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It’s your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Saint Stephens AL.
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