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How to Find the Best Truck Driver School near Bethel Alaska

Bethel Alaska tractor trailer carrying payloadCongrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Bethel AK. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to get the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of variables that you'll want to examine prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Bethel residence. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based only on price is not the optimal way to make certain you'll obtain the proper education. Don't forget, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?

Bethel Alaska truck traveling down highway

To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Bethel AK and throughout the United States, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will address Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief explanations for the two classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 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. 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also require endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.

How to Assess a CDL School

Bethel Alaska concrete truck with flag paint job

When you have determined which CDL you want to obtain, you can start the process of evaluating the Bethel AK truck driving schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other variables, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are some more things that you need to research while performing your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Bethel AK area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real 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 curriculum and training will measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One indicator to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Bethel AK schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alaska licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in good standing.

How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following section. Also, 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 personal attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Bethel AK schools provide training programs that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Teachers? As earlier stated, it's essential that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers might be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to visit the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to 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.

Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driver school will furnish plenty 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 operating a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training tools, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time can vary between schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Bethel AK schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from certain truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having 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 freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Bethel AK schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Alaska, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alaska testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Class Times Convenient? As previously noted, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the Bethel AK school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.

Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to begin your new career. 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 local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Bethel AK employers hiring their grads, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.

Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Bethel AK area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.

Learn More About Bethel Trucking Training Schools

Choose the Right Bethel CDL Training

Selecting the right trucking school is an important first step to launching your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on funds 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 choose an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Bethel Alaska.

 

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