How to Pick the Right Trucking Classes near Meadow Lakes Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Meadow Lakes AK. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides good income and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to receive the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of variables that you'll need to examine before making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Meadow Lakes home. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based only on price is not the optimal method to ensure you'll obtain the right training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose 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 talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within Meadow Lakes AK and throughout the United States, an operator must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will address Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short descriptions of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more 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 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. 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 might also require endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Assess a Truck Driver School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can start the process of evaluating the Meadow Lakes AK truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other issues, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So following are several additional points that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Meadow Lakes AK area are accredited because of the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 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 measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help measure the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Meadow Lakes AK schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alaska licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personalized attention they will need. This is especially 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 relatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Meadow Lakes AK schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As already mentioned, it's imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors stay up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the best method is to check out the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driver 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 driving a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time fluctuates between 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. Get in touch with the Meadow Lakes AK schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from a number of truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Meadow Lakes AK schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Alaska, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates from other schools for test times at Alaska testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As previously noted, truck driving training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Meadow Lakes AK school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. 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 obligations.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Verify 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, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Meadow Lakes AK employers recruiting their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Meadow Lakes AK area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Best Meadow Lakes CDL Training
Picking the right trucking school is a critical first step to launching your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must obtain the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you might want to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Meadow Lakes Alaska.