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How to Assess a Trucking School
As soon as you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can begin the process of assessing the Homer AK trucking schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other variables, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So following are some more points that you need to research while performing your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Homer AK area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 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 curriculum and training will fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help measure the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Homer AK schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alaska licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alaska and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the individual attention they will need. This is particularly 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 drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Homer AK schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As previously stated, it's important that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to check out the school and speak with 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 quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, a good trucking school will provide sufficient 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 necessary training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though 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. Get in touch with the Homer AK schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get free or discounted training from certain 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 offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining relationships with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Homer AK schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Alaska, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at Alaska testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As earlier mentioned, truck driving training is only about one to two months in length. With such a short duration, it's important that the Homer AK school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working 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 obtained 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 looking at have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Homer AK employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Homer AK area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. 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 must be submitted.