How to Find a Truck Driver School near Gulf Shores Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Gulf Shores AL. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open road while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible work opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it’s imperative to get the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain variables that you’ll need to consider before making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Gulf Shores residence. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the optimal means to make sure you’ll get the right education. Don’t forget, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the rest 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 Will You Require?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Gulf Shores AL, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The three license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will focus on 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). Following are short summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed 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 required to drive 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 specific kinds of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School
As soon as you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can start the process of researching the Gulf Shores AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, location and cost will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can’t be stressed enough that they should not be your sole 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 a few additional points that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driving schools in the Gulf Shores AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical 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. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school’s course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Gulf Shores AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school’s history is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won’t share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it’s any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personalized 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 be a truck driver in a relatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Gulf Shores AL schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As earlier stated, it’s essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also important that the teachers keep current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to a few 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.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent trucking 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. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time can vary between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Gulf Shores AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive free or discounted training from some truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular 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 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 giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Gulf Shores AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As formerly noted, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it’s imperative that the Gulf Shores AL school you select 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 instructor should be prepared to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you’re still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Offered? The moment you have received your commercial driver’s license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Ask 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 placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Gulf Shores AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Gulf Shores AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be submitted.
Enrolling in a Truck Driving School near Gulf Shores AL?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Gulf Shores Alabama area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Gulf Shores is located on the Gulf of Mexico at 30°16'4.069" North, 87°42'5.285" West (30.267797, −87.701468). It is the southernmost settlement in the state of Alabama. It is served by Alabama State Route 59 (Gulf Shores Parkway), which leads north to Foley. Route 182 (Beach Boulevard) runs east-west along the shore front, while Route 180 (Fort Morgan Road) runs parallel to it, north of Little Lagoon. Gulf State Park occupies a large eastern part of the city.
Gulf Shores is located 33 miles (53 km) west of Pensacola, Florida, 54 miles (87 km) south of Mobile, 197 miles (317 km) east of New Orleans, 194 miles (312 km) south of Montgomery, and 55 miles (89 km) west of Navarre, Florida.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 28.0 square miles (72.5 km2), of which 23.2 square miles (60.0 km2) is land and 4.8 square miles (12.5 km2), or 17.24%, is water.
Pick the Ideal Trucking School Gulf Shores AL
Choosing the appropriate trucking school is an essential 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 forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver’s success. Most importantly, you must get the proper training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might want to look into 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 enroll in an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It’s your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Gulf Shores AL.
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