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How to Decide on the Right CDL Training School near Gateway Alaska

Gateway Alaska tractor trailer hauling payloadCongratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Gateway AK. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides good pay and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to get the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of factors that you'll need to consider before making your final choice. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Gateway home. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the best way to make certain you'll obtain the appropriate education. Don't forget, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills 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 address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?

Gateway Alaska tractor trailer traveling down highway

To operate commercial vehicles legally within Gateway AK and throughout the United States, an operator needs to obtain 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 pick a truck driver school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short descriptions of the two classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 required to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of greater 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 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 might also require endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.

How to Research a Truck Driver School

Gateway Alaska cement mixer truck with patriotic paint job

When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can start the process of researching the Gateway AK truck driver schools that you are considering. As already discussed, location and cost will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other variables, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are some more factors that you should research while performing your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Gateway AK area are accredited because of the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Operation? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Gateway AK schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. 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 share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alaska licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.

How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alaska and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personalized attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Gateway AK schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Teachers? As earlier mentioned, it's imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers may be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the best method is to check out the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will furnish ample driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time can vary among schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Gateway AK schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from some trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Gateway AK schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Alaska, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alaska testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Class Times Accessible? As formerly mentioned, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's important that the Gateway AK school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain 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 fit in working hours or other commitments.

Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Ask 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 referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Gateway AK employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Gateway AK area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.

Learn More About Gateway Truck Driving Schools

Enroll in the Right Gateway CDL Training

Selecting the ideal truck driver school is an important first step to starting your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must receive the necessary training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you may want to look into 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 driver school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Gateway Alaska.

 

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