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How to Choose the Right Trucker School near Juneau Alaska

Juneau Alaska tractor trailer hauling cargoCongrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Juneau AK. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible work opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to obtain the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of variables that you'll want to consider before making your final choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Juneau home. The expense will also be of importance, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the best method to make sure you'll receive the right education. Just remember, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.

Which CDL Should You Get?

Juneau Alaska tractor trailer driving down expressway

To operate commercial vehicles legally within Juneau AK and throughout the United States, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief descriptions for the two classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 CDL is needed 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 might also need endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.

How to Research a Truck Driver School

Juneau Alaska concrete mixer truck with patriotic paint job

As soon as you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can start the process of evaluating the Juneau AK trucking schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other factors, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So following are some more factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Juneau AK area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense 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 know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 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 training and curriculum will comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Operation? One clue to help measure the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Juneau AK schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alaska licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.

How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving 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 insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Juneau AK schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Instructors? As earlier stated, it's important that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal approach is to visit the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.

Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver school will provide plenty 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. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time varies among schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Juneau AK schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.

Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get discounted or even free training from certain truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Juneau AK schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow 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 considering are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Alaska testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Classes Flexible? As previously mentioned, CDL training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's important that the Juneau AK school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular 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 attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.

Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Juneau AK employers hiring their grads, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Juneau AK area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.

Learn More About Juneau Trucker Schools

Choose the Right Juneau Truck Driver Training

Selecting the right trucking school is an important 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 forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, you must obtain the proper training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might want to think about 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 trucking 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 no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Juneau Alaska.

 

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