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How to Select the Right Truck Driver School near Lakes Alaska

Lakes Alaska truck hauling cargoCongrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Lakes AK. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to get the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several variables that you'll want to think about before making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Lakes home. The cost will also be important, but choosing a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal way to guarantee you'll obtain the appropriate training. Just remember, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the remainder 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?

Lakes Alaska tractor trailer traveling down expressway

In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Lakes AK and throughout the USA, a driver needs to 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. Since the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short summaries of the two classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate 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 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 required 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. Several 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 may also need endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.

How to Research a CDL School

Lakes Alaska concrete truck with flag paint job

When you have decided which CDL you wish to obtain, you can start the process of evaluating the Lakes AK truck driver schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So below are some additional factors that you need to research while performing your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Lakes AK area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, 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. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive 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 fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Operation? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Lakes AK schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alaska licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.

How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personal 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 claims it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Lakes AK schools provide training courses that run from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.

How Good are the Teachers? As earlier mentioned, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a little more subjective 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 going through the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driver school will furnish sufficient 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. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time fluctuates among schools, a good benchmark 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 Lakes AK schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.

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 referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having associations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, 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 limit your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Lakes AK schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Alaska, find out if the schools you are considering 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 also an indication that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Class Times Accessible? As previously noted, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Lakes AK school you choose provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.

Is Job Placement Provided? As soon as you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Lakes AK employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Lakes AK area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.

Learn More About Lakes CDL Training Schools

Enroll in the Best Lakes CDL Training

Picking the appropriate truck driver school is an essential first step to starting your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must get the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you might want to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent truck driver school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Lakes Alaska.

 

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