How to Find the Right Truck Driving School near Juneau Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Juneau AK. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain variables that you'll need to think about before making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Juneau residence. The expense will also be of importance, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal means to make certain you'll receive the proper training. Just remember, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Juneau AK and throughout the United States, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive 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 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 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 may also require endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Assess a Truck Driver School
Once you have decided which CDL you wish to obtain, you can start the process of researching the Juneau AK truck driving schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other factors, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So below are some additional things that you should research while conducting your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Juneau AK area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace 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 quality, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. As an 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 Business? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Juneau AK schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alaska licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the next section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personal attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Juneau AK schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's important that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the best method is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a good trucking school will furnish plenty of driving time to its students. After all, 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 simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Juneau AK schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain free or discounted training from a number of truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide 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 restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Juneau AK schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? 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 looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at Alaska testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As formerly noted, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Juneau AK school you choose provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Juneau AK employers recruiting their grads, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Juneau AK area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Best Juneau CDL Training
Choosing the ideal truck driving school is an important first step to starting your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must get the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you might want to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Juneau Alaska.