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How to Choose the Best CDL Driving Classes near Gateway Alaska

Gateway Alaska truck hauling cargoCongratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Gateway AK. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's important to obtain the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several variables that you'll need to think about before making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Gateway residence. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based only on price is not the ideal way to ensure you'll obtain the proper training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you pick 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 CDL license you will eventually need.

Which CDL Will You Require?

Gateway Alaska tractor trailer driving down expressway

To operate commercial vehicles legally within Gateway AK and throughout the United States, a driver must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses 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 driver school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate together with 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 Commercial Drivers License is required 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 CDL is required to operate 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. 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 might also require endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.

How to Research a Trucking School

Gateway Alaska cement truck with patriotic paint job

As soon as you have determined which CDL you wish to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Gateway AK truck driver schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other issues, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are some more points that you need to research while performing your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Gateway AK area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical 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. Prospective students know 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 ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.

How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Gateway AK schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alaska licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in good standing.

How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining 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 train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Gateway AK schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.

How Good are the Instructors? As already mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers stay up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors may be a little more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal approach is to visit the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a good 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 ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a reasonable standard 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 Gateway AK schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they provide.

Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to get discounted or even free training from certain truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining relationships with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Gateway AK schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alaska, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alaska testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Classes Flexible? As previously mentioned, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's essential that the Gateway AK school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.

Is Job Assistance Offered? The moment you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Gateway AK employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.

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

Find Out More About Gateway Truck Driving Classes

Enroll in the Best Gateway Truck Driver Training

Picking the right trucking school is an important first step to starting your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must receive the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you might want to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you get your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Gateway Alaska.

 

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