How to Pick the Right CDL Training Classes near Gateway Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Gateway AK. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible work prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to obtain the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various variables that you'll need to consider prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you need to commute from your Gateway residence. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based only on price is not the best way to make sure you'll get the appropriate education. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within Gateway AK and throughout the USA, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driver 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 in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief summaries of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 more 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 CDLs might also require endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Research a CDL School
When you have decided which CDL you would like to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of researching the Gateway AK truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, location and cost will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other issues, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So following are a few more factors that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driving schools in the Gateway AK area are accredited because of the rigorous 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 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 receive plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. 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 indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Gateway AK schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alaska licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alaska and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next 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 getting the personalized attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that claims it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Gateway AK schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As earlier mentioned, it's imperative 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 an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best method is to check out the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will provide ample driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real 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 substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Gateway AK schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from a number of truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Gateway AK schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alaska, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alaska testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As previously noted, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's important that the Gateway AK school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to start your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Gateway AK employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Gateway AK area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. 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 need to be submitted.
Choose the Best Gateway Truck Driver Training
Choosing the right truck driver school is an essential first step to starting your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must get the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on cash or financing, you might need to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Gateway Alaska.