How to Choose the Right Trucker School near Kenai Alaska
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Kenai AK. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides good income and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to receive the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain factors that you'll need to think about prior to making your final selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Kenai home. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal way to make certain you'll obtain the proper education. Don't forget, your objective 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 objective in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within Kenai AK and throughout the USA, a driver must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will focus on Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short descriptions for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate 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 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed 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. Some of the vehicles that drivers may be qualified to operate 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 need endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a CDL School
After you have decided which CDL you would like to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of researching the Kenai AK trucking schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other factors, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are a few more things that you should research while conducting your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the Kenai AK area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. 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 Business? One indicator to help determine 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 be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Kenai AK schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alaska licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the personal instruction 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 Kenai AK schools offer training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As already stated, it's important that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital 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 criteria, and perhaps the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent trucking school will provide sufficient 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. While 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 Kenai AK schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from a number of truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular 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 affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Kenai AK schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed 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 competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alaska testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As formerly noted, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Kenai AK school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? The moment you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Kenai AK employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Kenai AK area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Right Kenai Truck Driver Training
Choosing the ideal truck driving school is an essential first step to beginning your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking 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 CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Kenai Alaska.