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How to Pick the Best Truck Driving School near College Alaska

College Alaska tractor trailer carrying payloadCongratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near College AK. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's important to receive the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several variables that you'll want to consider prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, especially if you need to commute from your College home. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based solely on price is not the optimal method to guarantee you'll receive the right training. Don't forget, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.

Which CDL Should You Get?

College Alaska tractor trailer driving down highway

To operate commercial vehicles legally within College AK and throughout the USA, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief explanations for the 2 classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 Commercial Drivers License 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 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 passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.

How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School

College Alaska concrete mixer truck with patriotic paint job

When you have determined which CDL you want to pursue, you can begin the process of assessing the College AK trucking schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other variables, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So below are some additional factors that you should research while performing your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the College AK area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 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 training and curriculum will comply with the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of College AK schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alaska licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.

How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the individual attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that professes it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most College AK schools offer training courses that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.

How Good are the Trainers? As earlier stated, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal approach is to check out the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few 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.

Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a good trucking 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. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, they are no replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the College AK schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.

Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from some trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining associations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the College AK schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alaska, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alaska testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Class Times Accessible? As previously noted, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the College AK school you select provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to commit more time with you until you are proficient. 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 obligations.

Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few College AK employers hiring their grads, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Given? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other College AK area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. 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 College Truck Driving Classes

Choose the Best College CDL Training

Picking the ideal trucking school is an important first step to launching your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, you must obtain the necessary training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may want to think about 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 select an independent truck driver school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in College Alaska.

 

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