How to Pick the Best CDL Training School near Meadow Lakes Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Meadow Lakes AK. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have found that a career as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to get the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain factors that you'll need to think about before making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Meadow Lakes home. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the ideal way to ensure you'll obtain the appropriate training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within Meadow Lakes AK and throughout the United States, an operator must obtain 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 select a truck driving school, we will address Class A and Class 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). Following are brief descriptions for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 CDL is needed to drive 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. A few 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 might also need endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Research a Trucking School
As soon as you have determined which CDL you want to obtain, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Meadow Lakes AK truck driver schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other factors, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are a few more factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Meadow Lakes AK area are accredited because of the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more typical and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 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 curriculum and training will fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Meadow Lakes AK schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. 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 hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the instructors in the following 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 receiving the personalized attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time period. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Meadow Lakes AK schools provide training courses that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As earlier mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers keep current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal approach is to visit the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with 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.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driver school will provide ample 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. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time differs among schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Meadow Lakes AK schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get free or discounted training from certain truck driving schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Meadow Lakes AK schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Alaska, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling 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 higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As formerly noted, truck driving training is only about one to two months in length. With such a short term, it's essential that the Meadow Lakes AK school you enroll in offers 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 commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? The moment you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Meadow Lakes AK employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Meadow Lakes AK area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enroll in the Best Meadow Lakes CDL Training
Picking the right truck driving school is an important first step to beginning your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may want 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 choose an independent CDL school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Meadow Lakes Alaska.