How to Decide on the Right Trucker Classes near Fairbanks Alaska
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Fairbanks AK. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible work prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative 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 need to think about before making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Fairbanks residence. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the best method to make certain you'll get the right education. Just remember, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within Fairbanks AK and throughout the USA, a driver must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and 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). Below are brief summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 CDL is required 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. Several 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 may also need endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School
When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can start the process of evaluating the Fairbanks AK truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are some more points that you should research while conducting your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driving schools in the Fairbanks AK area are accredited because of the stringent process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 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 meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Fairbanks AK schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't supply those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alaska licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alaska and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that claims it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Fairbanks AK schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As already mentioned, it's essential that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, 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 laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors may be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to visit the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driver school will furnish lots of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time varies among schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Fairbanks AK schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? 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 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 associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, 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. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Fairbanks AK schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. 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 other schools for test times at Alaska testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As earlier noted, CDL training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Fairbanks 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 particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed 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 received your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate 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 few Fairbanks AK employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Fairbanks AK area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Best Fairbanks Truck Driver Training
Picking the ideal truck driver school is a critical first step to starting your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you might 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 CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will soon be part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Fairbanks Alaska.