How to Choose the Best CDL Training Classes near Helena Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Helena AL. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it’s essential to get the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various variables that you’ll want to consider prior to making your final selection. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Helena residence. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the ideal means to guarantee you’ll obtain the appropriate education. Don’t forget, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Helena AL, a driver must get a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The three 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 driver 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 of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 Commercial Drivers License 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. A few 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 might also require endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a Truck Driver School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you wish to pursue, you can start the process of assessing the Helena AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can’t be emphasized enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other factors, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So below are a few more points that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Helena AL area are accredited because of the demanding 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 certain advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school’s program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Helena AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also learn what the school’s history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won’t provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn’t hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors in the next section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personal instruction they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Helena AL schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As already mentioned, it’s essential that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also important that the instructors keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers may be a little more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the ideal method is to visit the school and talk to the instructors 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 qualification to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver school will furnish ample 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. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time can vary among schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Helena AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It’s possible to obtain free or discounted training from certain truck driving schools if you make a commitment to drive 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 having affiliations 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 work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Helena AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As formerly noted, CDL training is only about one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it’s important that the Helena AL school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you’re having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing 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 Provided? Once you have acquired your commercial driver’s license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Helena AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Helena AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be submitted.
CDL Trucking School Helena Alabama
Picking the appropriate trucking school is an essential first step to beginning your new vocation 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 many options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver’s success. You originally came to our website because of your interest in CDL Trucking School and wanting information on the topic CDL Truck Training. But first and foremost, you must receive the appropriate training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking money or financing, you might need to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It’s your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Helena AL.
Truck On in These Other Alabama Locations
Helena (pronunciation hel-LE-nah) is a city in Jefferson and Shelby Counties in the state of Alabama. Helena is considered a suburb of Birmingham and part of the Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Area. As of the 2010 census, the population was 16,793. Helena is highly regarded as a place to live and raise children; Business Week named Helena the 13th "Best Place to Raise Your Kids" in 2007. It has the eighth-lowest crime rate per population in the U.S., and the city was ranked in Money magazine's 2007 list of "Best Places to Live: Top 100" in the U.S., placing at number 91. The Alabama League of Municipalities awarded Helena the 2008 Municipal Achievement Award (population 10,001 to 20,000).
Helena initially incorporated in 1877, but reincorporated in 1917 after errors were discovered in the initial incorporation papers. It did not first appear on the U.S. Census until 1920, giving credence to the later date of incorporation.
The initial settlers to Helena, initially named Cove, were veterans of the final campaigns of the War of 1812. Members of Andrew Jackson's army who cut through the brush were attracted to the quiet, peaceful valleys and streams after the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. These first settlers were reported to arrive in 1849 and were predated by the Creek Indian tribes who these settlers had battled. By 1856, the Cove post office opened. Shortly thereafter, the settlers changed the name of the town to Hillsboro.
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