How to Choose the Right Truck Driver Classes near Kenai Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Kenai AK. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to receive the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain factors that you'll need to consider before making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Kenai residence. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based only on price is not the best way to make certain you'll obtain the right training. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address 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 CDL Will You Require?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within Kenai AK and throughout the United States, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will focus on Class A and 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). Following are brief descriptions 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. 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 required to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. A few 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 might also need endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Research a CDL School
After you have decided which CDL you wish to pursue, you can begin the process of assessing the Kenai AK truck driving schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other issues, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So below are several more things that you should research while performing your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Kenai AK area are accredited due to the rigorous process and expense to the schools. However, 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 recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 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 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 ranked or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Kenai 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 regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alaska licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the individual attention 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 claims it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Kenai AK schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As earlier mentioned, it's essential that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to check out the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driving school will provide ample 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. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time differs between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Kenai AK schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from some truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with many different 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 giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Kenai 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 permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Alaska, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alaska testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As earlier mentioned, CDL training is only about one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the Kenai AK school you select offers 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 working while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Kenai AK employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Kenai AK area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Right Kenai Truck Driver Training
Selecting the ideal truck driving school is an important first step to starting your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might want to consider 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 CDL school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Kenai Alaska.