How to Choose the Best Trucker Classes near Juneau Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Juneau AK. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good income and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to obtain the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain factors that you'll want to think about before making your final choice. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Juneau residence. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the best method to make sure you'll get the proper training. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question 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 commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Juneau AK and throughout the United States, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will discuss 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 short summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL 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. 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 Commercial Drivers License 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 CDLs may also require endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Research a CDL School
When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the process of assessing the Juneau AK trucking schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, cost and location will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other issues, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are a few additional points that you need to research while conducting 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 Juneau AK area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get an ample amount 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 meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school usually 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 first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alaska licensing department to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the next section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personal instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding 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 time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Juneau AK schools offer training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As already stated, it's important that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driving school will furnish ample driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time fluctuates among schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Juneau AK schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive discounted or even free training from a number of truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with many different 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 surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Juneau AK schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alaska, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alaska testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As previously noted, truck driver training is just one to two months long. With such a short duration, it's important that the Juneau AK school you select offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. 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 are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage 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 lower job placement rate or few Juneau AK employers recruiting their grads, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? 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 aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enroll in the Right Juneau Truck Driver Training
Selecting the ideal truck driving school is an important first step to launching your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on cash or financing, you may want to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Juneau Alaska.