How to Select the Right CDL Driving School near Meadow Lakes Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Meadow Lakes AK. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good income and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's important to receive the proper 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 think about before making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Meadow Lakes home. The expense will also be of importance, but selecting a school based only on price is not the optimal means to guarantee you'll get the appropriate training. Just remember, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within Meadow Lakes AK and throughout the USA, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose 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 together with 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 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 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. A few 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 need endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School
After you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Meadow Lakes AK trucking schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other factors, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So following are a few additional things that you should research while conducting your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Meadow Lakes AK area are accredited because of the demanding process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common 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 get an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 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 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 driver school is how long it has been in business. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Meadow Lakes AK schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alaska licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the individual instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time frame. Training 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 two months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As already stated, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method 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 satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver school will provide plenty of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Meadow Lakes AK schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain free or discounted training from a number of trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Meadow Lakes AK schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alaska, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from other schools for test times at Alaska testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As previously mentioned, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Meadow Lakes AK school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Meadow Lakes AK employers hiring their graduates, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Meadow Lakes AK area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Best Meadow Lakes CDL Training
Picking the right truck driving school is an important first step to launching your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. However, you must get 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 may need 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 truck driver school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Meadow Lakes Alaska.