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How to Research a Truck Driving School
When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can start the process of assessing the Ketchikan AK truck driver schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other factors, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are several additional things that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Ketchikan AK area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost 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 certain advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 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 satisfy the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Ketchikan AK schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alaska licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the individual attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning 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 frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Ketchikan AK schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As earlier stated, it's essential that the instructors are trained 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 professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal method is to check out the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will provide 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 operating a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time differs among schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Ketchikan AK schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive free or discounted training from some truck driving schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver 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 be sure to inquire if the Ketchikan AK schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alaska, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alaska testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier mentioned, truck driving training is only about one to two months long. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Ketchikan AK school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Ketchikan AK employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Ketchikan 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 assessing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be submitted.