How to Choose a Truck Driver School near Columbia Alabama
Best wishes on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Columbia AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible work prospects. No matter what your reason is, it’s important to get the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various factors that you’ll need to think about prior to making your final selection. Location will certainly be important, especially if you need to commute from your Columbia home. The cost will also be important, but choosing a school based solely on price is not the ideal method to guarantee you’ll receive the right education. Don’t forget, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you select 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 CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?
To operate commercial vehicles legally in Alabama and within the United States, an operator must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The three classes of licenses that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driving school near Columbia AL, 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 as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 CDL is required to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater 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 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 proper required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Assess a Truck Driver School
When you have decided which CDL you would like to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of researching the Columbia AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can’t be stressed enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other variables, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So below are a few more things that you should research while performing your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many Columbia AL truck driver schools are accredited because of the demanding process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school’s program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed 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 Columbia AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school’s history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won’t share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn’t hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the following section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personal 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. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Columbia AL schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As previously stated, it’s essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also vital that the teachers keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers might be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to visit the Columbia AL school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher’s qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent trucking school will provide plenty of 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 simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no substitute for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a reasonable benchmark 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 Columbia AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It’s possible to get discounted or even free training from some Columbia AL truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining associations 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 surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the Columbia AL schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As earlier noted, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it’s essential that the Columbia AL school you enroll in offers 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 teacher should be willing to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you’re still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to begin your new career in Columbia AL. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other vocational or trade 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 aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed in Columbia AL.
Why Did You Decide to Become a Truck Driver?When preparing to interview for a Trucking job, it's a good idea to review questions you could be asked. Among the things that interviewers typically ask truck driving candidates is "What compelled you to decide on trucking as a profession?". What the interviewer is trying to discover is not just the private reasons you might have for being a trucking operator, but also what attributes and skills you possess that make you good at your profession. You will undoubtedly be asked questions pertaining primarily to trucking, as well as a certain number of standard interview questions, so you should ready several ideas about how you want to address them. Since there are several factors that go into selecting a career, you can answer this fundamental question in a variety of ways. When formulating an answer, try to include the reasons the work appeals to you along with the abilities you possess that make you an outstanding truck driver and the best choice for the job. Don't attempt to memorize a response, but take down a few concepts and topics that relate to your personal experiences and strengths. Reviewing sample answers can assist you to prepare your own concepts, and give you ideas of what to discuss to enthuse the recruiter.
Pick the Ideal Trucking School Columbia AL
Selecting the right truck driving school is an essential first step to launching your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver’s success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the necessary 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 by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent 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 decision. But no matter how you receive your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Columbia AL.
A Bit About Columbia Alabama
At the age of 18 Columbia was hired to assist Bill Sienkiewicz in illustrating Alan Moore's ambitious Big Numbers series. When Sienkiewicz withdrew from the series in 1990 after the release of the first two issues, Moore and his backers at Tundra Publishing asked the young Columbia to become its sole artist. In 1992, with no more issues released, Columbia himself left the project under a cloud of rumors and accusations, including claims that he had destroyed his own artwork for Big Numbers #4. Columbia declined to address the subject publicly for several years, writing in a 1998 letter to The Comics Journal that "I could easily launch into a tirade about the extensive horror of my Tundra experience, but I much prefer the very entertaining and conflicting accounts already in circulation." In later statements he confirmed that he destroyed his artwork but disputed other claims by the principal figures in the fiasco.
In a 2011 article reflecting on his Big Numbers experience, Sienkiewicz wrote that he and Columbia had long since reconciled over the matter, and that he was content to "[c]halk the feud up to the folly of youth."
Columbia's first solo comic book, Doghead, was released by Tundra Publishing in 1992. It contains three short stories, two in black and white and one in full color. Paul Gravett described it as "three dark, stylish tales, indebted to Sienkiewicz and McKean but with hints of [Columbia's] emerging singular identity".
Columbia contributed to three issues of the horror anthology From Beyonde in the early nineties, initially under the pen name "Lucien" and then under his own name. His stories "The Biologic Show" and "Tar Frogs" also appeared in the British magazine Deadline. In these works, which focused on visceral and disturbing subject matter including mutilation, incest, and the occult, he moved away from the glossy photorealism of his time with Sienkiewicz towards a scabrous but virtuosic pen-and-ink style that emphasized grotesque physiognomic details such as grinning mouths full of teeth and leering, reptilian eyes.
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