How to Find the Best CDL Driving Classes near Kodiak Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Kodiak AK. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to receive the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are a number of factors that you'll need to think about prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be important, especially if you need to commute from your Kodiak home. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based only on price is not the ideal means to make certain you'll obtain the appropriate training. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Kodiak AK and throughout the United States, an operator must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving 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 in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief summaries for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 more 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 CDLs might also require endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a Truck Driver School
As soon as you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can begin the process of assessing the Kodiak AK truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must 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 a few additional points that you need to research while conducting your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Kodiak AK area are accredited because of the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help measure the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Kodiak AK schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alaska licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alaska and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the following 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 instruction 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 comparatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Kodiak AK schools provide training courses that run from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As already stated, it's imperative that the teachers 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 an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers might be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best method is to visit the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a good trucking school will furnish plenty of driving time to its students. After all, 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 ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, they are no substitute for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time differs between schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Kodiak AK schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from a number of trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with a wide range of 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 giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Kodiak AK schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alaska, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alaska testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As formerly mentioned, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief term, it's important that the Kodiak AK school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Kodiak AK employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Kodiak AK area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Right Kodiak Truck Driver Training
Choosing the right 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 a number of options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must receive the appropriate training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on cash or financing, you might need to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent CDL school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Kodiak Alaska.