How to Find the Best CDL Training Classes near Ketchikan Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Ketchikan AK. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to obtain the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of variables that you'll want to consider before making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Ketchikan home. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based only on price is not the best way to ensure you'll obtain the right education. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you decide on 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 ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Ketchikan AK and throughout the United States, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will focus on Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below 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 more 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 drive 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 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 need endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Research a CDL School
As soon as you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can start the process of evaluating the Ketchikan AK truck driving schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, 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 variables, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are some more factors that you should research while performing your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the Ketchikan AK area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 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 training and curriculum will fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Ketchikan AK schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alaska licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following section. 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 receiving the individual attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that professes it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Ketchikan AK schools offer training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As already stated, it's essential that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors might be a little more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal approach is to visit the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driver school will furnish lots 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 operating a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time can vary 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 Ketchikan AK schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain free or discounted training from certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Ketchikan AK schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alaska, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alaska testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As formerly mentioned, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Ketchikan AK school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have received your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Ketchikan AK employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Ketchikan 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 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 submitted.
Enroll in the Best Ketchikan Truck Driver Training
Picking the appropriate trucking school is a critical first step to launching your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must receive the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. 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 choose an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be joining a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Ketchikan Alaska.