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How to Select the Right CDL Driving School near Eagle River Alaska

Eagle River Alaska tractor trailer carrying payloadCongrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Eagle River AK. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to receive the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several factors that you'll want to think about before making your final choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Eagle River residence. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the best way to guarantee you'll get the proper education. Just remember, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?

Eagle River Alaska tractor trailer traveling down expressway

In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Eagle River AK and throughout the USA, a driver must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 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 driving school, we will discuss Class A and 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 descriptions 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 more than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 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. 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may 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 drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.

How to Assess a CDL School

Eagle River Alaska cement truck with flag paint job

When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can start the process of researching the Eagle River AK truck driver schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, cost and location will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other issues, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So following are a few more points that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Eagle River AK area are accredited due to the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real 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 standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Operation? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Eagle River AK schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alaska licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.

How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alaska and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the individual instruction 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 drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Eagle River AK schools offer training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Trainers? As already mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal approach is to visit the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.

How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will provide sufficient 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 simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no substitute for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time differs between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Eagle River AK schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.

Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get discounted or even free training from some truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining associations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Eagle River AK schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Alaska, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of other schools for test times at Alaska testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Classes Accessible? As previously mentioned, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's important that the Eagle River AK school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.

Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Eagle River AK employers recruiting their grads, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Eagle River AK area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.

Learn More About Eagle River Truck Driver Schools

Choose the Best Eagle River CDL Training

Picking the ideal truck driving school is a critical first step to launching your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must get the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on money or financing, you might want to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent truck driving 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 obtain your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Eagle River Alaska.

 

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