How to Choose a CDL Driving School near Leeds Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Leeds AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it’s important to obtain the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of factors that you’ll need to consider before making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Leeds residence. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the ideal method to make certain you’ll receive the proper training. Don’t forget, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver’s license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Leeds AL, an operator must obtain 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. Since the topic of this article is how to choose 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). Below are short descriptions for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also require endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, including 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 qualified to operate.
How to Research a CDL School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you wish to pursue, you can begin the process of evaluating the Leeds AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can’t be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other variables, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are some additional points that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Leeds AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 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 training and curriculum will measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Leeds AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school’s history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won’t provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the instructors in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it’s any greater, then students will not be receiving the personalized instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Leeds AL schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As already mentioned, it’s imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also vital that the instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to check out the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher’s ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driving school will furnish lots of driving time to its students. Besides, isn’t that what it’s all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Leeds AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It’s possible to get free or discounted training from a number of trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is what’s known as 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 refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Leeds AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As formerly mentioned, truck driver training is just one to two months in length. With such a short term, it’s essential that the Leeds AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you’re having difficulty 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 holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have obtained your commercial driver’s license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Leeds AL employers hiring their grads, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Leeds 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 reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enrolling in a Truck Driving School near Leeds AL?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Leeds Alabama area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
Leeds is a tri-county municipality located in Jefferson, St. Clair, and Shelby counties in the State of Alabama and is an eastern suburb of Birmingham. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city was 11,773.
The War of 1812, geography, geology, and three cultures shaped the history of Leeds. Lying at the crossroads of desecrated ancient Native-American paths in the center of Alabama, Leeds drew European and African-American settlers to a land of fertile growing seasons and rich sources of coal and mineral ore. The early settlers built churches and schools with many remaining in Cedar Grove, Oak Ridge, Ohanafeefee and Mt. Pleasant. The principal survey of Leeds was entered into Jefferson County Map Book 10, page 21, in 1908. The settlement, dating to 1818 and incorporating on April 27, 1887 as "Leeds", has existed along the banks of the Little Cahaba River; beside an historic stagecoach route; and along two large railroads for the greater part of American History.
James Hamilton, a Scottish-Irish American veteran of the War of 1812 and first sheriff of Shelby County, settled in Cedar Grove in 1816. John Richard Ingram Pashal Stewart, a Cherokee English teacher and American veteran of the War of 1812, settled at Ohanafeefee Village c.1840. At Oak Ridge in 1820 or 1821, European settlers formed Shiloh Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the first CPC congregation in middle Alabama. By 1887, the original railroad pioneers included free African-American settlers who came to work at the Leeds cement plant and the Central of Georgia as the Georgia Pacific railroads. Some gravitated to historic Mt. Pleasant Church where a handful of freed slaves had founded Scott City, Hillard Holley, Ciscero Davis, Jeff Harris, and Bill Johnson started Leeds Negro/Primary School in 1921.
Pick the Right Trucking School Leeds AL
Selecting the ideal truck driver school is an essential first step to launching your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. Most importantly, you must receive the proper training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on money or financing, you may need to look into 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 choose an independent truck driver school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It’s your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Leeds AL.
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