How to Choose a Trucking School near Northport Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Northport AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good income and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it’s essential to obtain the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of variables that you’ll want to examine before making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Northport residence. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal method to guarantee you’ll receive the right training. Don’t forget, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target 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 balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver’s license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully in Alabama and within the United States, a driver must get a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 license classes that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school near Northport AL, we will focus on Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short descriptions for 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 more than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 CDL 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. A few 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 licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a Truck Driver School
When you have decided which CDL you wish to obtain, you can begin the process of evaluating the Northport AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can’t be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other issues, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are a few additional factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few Northport AL trucking schools are accredited because of the rigorous process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more common 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 know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual 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 meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively ranked 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 top Northport AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school’s history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won’t supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it’s any greater, then students will not be receiving the individual instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that claims it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Northport AL schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As already mentioned, it’s imperative that the teachers are trained 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 successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It’s also vital that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a little more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the best approach is to pay a visit to the Northport AL school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher’s qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driving 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 operating a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time varies among schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Northport AL schools you are considering 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 Northport AL truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified 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 instead of having affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly 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 remember to ask if the schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the Northport AL schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As earlier noted, truck driving training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it’s essential that the Northport AL school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you’re having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to commit 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 needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have received your commercial driver’s license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to begin your new career in Northport AL. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be submitted in Northport AL.
Why Did You Desire to Be a Truck Driver?When preparing to interview for a Trucking position, it's a good idea to reflect on questions you might be asked. One of the things that recruiters often ask truck driving applicants is "What drove you to decide on trucking as a career?". What the interviewer is trying to learn is not just the private reasons you may have for being a truck driver, but also what qualities and skills you have that make you outstanding at what you do. You will probably be asked questions relating exclusively to trucking, along with a certain number of routine interview questions, so you must prepare several strategies about how you want to address them. Considering there are so many variables that go into choosing a career, you can answer this primary question in a number of ways. When preparing an answer, attempt to include the reasons the profession interests you as well as the strengths you possess that make you an exceptional truck driver and the ideal choice for the position. Don't attempt to memorize a response, but write down several ideas and talking points that relate to your personal strengths and experiences. Reading through sample answers can assist you to develop your own concepts, and give you ideas of what to include to impress the recruiter.
Pick the Best CDL School Northport AL
Selecting the ideal truck driver school is an important 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 shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. Most importantly, you must receive the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might need to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It’s your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Northport AL.
A Bit About Northport Alabama
Northport is a city in Tuscaloosa County in the west central part of the State of Alabama. Located on the Black Warrior River across from downtown Tuscaloosa, it is currently the 21st largest city in Alabama with an estimated population of 24,497 in 2013. It incorporated in 1871. It is part of the Tuscaloosa Metropolitan Statistical Area.
As Northport is adjacent to the larger city of Tuscaloosa, many residents work in Tuscaloosa or other parts of Tuscaloosa County. Although the two cities share a land boundary, much of their boundary (and historically all of the boundary) is the Black Warrior River.
As of the census of 2000, there were 19,435 people, 7,844 households, and 5,255 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,328.3 people per square mile (512.9/km²). There were 8,509 housing units at an average density of 581.6 per square mile (224.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 71.11% White, 26.03% Black or African American, 0.19% Native American, 0.80% Asian, 0.15% Pacific Islander, 1.02% from other races, and 0.70% from two or more races. 1.92% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 7,844 households out of which 32.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.3% were married couples living together, 15.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.0% were non-families. 28.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.41 and the average family size was 2.98.
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