How to Choose the Right Trucker School near Opelika Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Opelika AL. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open road while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it’s imperative to receive the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several factors that you’ll want to consider prior to making your final selection. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Opelika home. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based solely on price is not the best method to make certain you’ll receive the proper training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified 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 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?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Opelika AL, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The three license classes that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will focus on Class A and Class 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). Following are short explanations of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL 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. 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 required 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 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 operate certain types of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Assess a Truck Driving School
Once you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Opelika AL trucking schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can’t be emphasized enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other variables, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are a few more factors that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Opelika AL area are accredited due to the demanding process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get lots of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual 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 satisfy the very high benchmarks 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 negatively rated or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Opelika AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school’s track record is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won’t share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn’t hurt to contact the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any greater, then students will not be getting the individual attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Opelika AL schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As already stated, it’s essential 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 an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also vital that the instructors stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher’s ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver school will furnish ample driving time to its students. After all, 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 simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time varies between schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Opelika AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It’s possible to get free or discounted training from certain truck driving schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations 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 surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Opelika AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As formerly mentioned, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short term, it’s imperative that the Opelika AL school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you’re having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor 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 must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Opelika AL employers recruiting their grads, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Opelika 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 assessing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.
Thinking of a Truck Drivier School near Opelika AL?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Opelika Alabama area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
Opelika (pronounced /ˌoʊpəˈlaɪkə/ OH-pə-LY-kə) is a city in and the county seat of Lee County in the east central part of the State of Alabama. It is a principal city of the Auburn-Opelika Metropolitan Area. According to the 2013 Census Estimate, the population of Opelika was 28,635. The Auburn-Opelika, AL MSA with a population of 150,933 which, along with the Columbus, Georgia metropolitan area and Macon County, Alabama, comprises the Greater Columbus, Georgia, a region home to 501,649 residents.
The first white settlers in the area now known as Opelika arrived in the late 1830s and established a community called Lebanon. After the removal of the native Creek (Muscogee) peoples by federal troops in 1836-37, the area became known as "Opelika." This word taken from the Muskogee language means "large swamp".
In 1848, the Montgomery and West Point Railroad Company extended a rail line from Montgomery, Alabama, to Opelika, and in 1851, completed a connection to West Point, Georgia, thus connecting Opelika with Atlanta, Georgia. This line was the only direct rail route between New Orleans and the Eastern Seaboard. It rapidly became one of the primary trade lines for shipments of raw cotton from Southern plantations to the North. The Montgomery and West Point was soon joined by a rail connection to Columbus, Georgia, in 1855, and a connection to Birmingham, Alabama, in 1869. Almost overnight, Opelika became a regional hub for commerce.
How Can I Get A CDL License Opelika AL
Picking the appropriate truck driver school is an important first step to starting your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. You originally came to our website because of your interest in How Can I Get A CDL License. But first and foremost, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may 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 select an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It’s your choice. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Opelika AL.
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