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How to Enroll in the Right Trucking School near Bethel Alaska

Bethel Alaska truck 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 dream to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's important to get the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of factors that you'll want to consider prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Bethel home. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based only on price is not the optimal means to make certain you'll obtain the proper education. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the balance 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 Should You Get?

Bethel Alaska tractor trailer driving down road

In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within Bethel AK and throughout the United States, a driver must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 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 select a truck driver school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes 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 for the two classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 needed to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of greater 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 may also need endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.

How to Assess a Trucking School

Bethel Alaska cement mixer truck with patriotic paint job

Once you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the Bethel AK truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, cost and location will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other issues, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are a few additional factors that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Bethel AK area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 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 training and curriculum will fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Bethel AK schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alaska licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.

How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Bethel AK schools provide training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Trainers? As previously mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital 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 subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to visit the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driver school will provide 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 real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time varies among schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Bethel AK schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.

Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive discounted or even free training from certain truck driving schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having associations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Bethel AK schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Alaska, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at Alaska testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Class Times Convenient? As formerly noted, CDL training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Bethel AK school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.

Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Bethel AK employers hiring their graduates, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Bethel AK area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.

Learn More About Bethel Truck Driving Classes

Choose the Right Bethel CDL Training

Choosing the appropriate truck driving school is an important first step to starting 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 several options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must receive the proper training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you might want to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will soon be part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Bethel Alaska.

 

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