How to Pick the Best Truck Driving School near Kodiak Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Kodiak AK. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some research and have found that a career as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to get the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are certain variables that you'll need to consider before making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you need to commute from your Kodiak home. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the ideal way to guarantee you'll obtain the appropriate education. Just remember, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills 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 choose 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 discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Require?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Kodiak AK and throughout the United States, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that one 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 address Class A and B licenses. What differentiates 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). Following are brief summaries for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Some 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also need endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Assess a Truck Driving School
Once you have determined which CDL you wish to pursue, you can start the process of assessing the Kodiak AK truck driver schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other issues, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So following are several more points that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Kodiak AK area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given lots of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 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 measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Kodiak AK schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alaska licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personal attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Kodiak 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 methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors keep current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors may be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to check out the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driver school will provide 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 driving a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time varies between schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Kodiak AK schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain free or discounted training from some truck driving schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Kodiak 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 third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Alaska, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Alaska testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As earlier mentioned, CDL training is only about one to two months long. With such a short term, it's essential that the Kodiak AK school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Provided? The moment you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Kodiak AK employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Kodiak AK area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.
Enroll in the Best Kodiak Truck Driver Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driving school is a critical first step to starting your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must get the necessary training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. 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 trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you get your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Kodiak Alaska.