How to Choose the Best CDL Driving Classes near Nikiski Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Nikiski AK. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's important to get the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various variables that you'll want to think about prior to making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, especially if you need to commute from your Nikiski home. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based solely on price is not the best way to make sure you'll get the proper education. Don't forget, your objective is to master 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 decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Will You Require?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Nikiski AK and throughout the USA, an operator must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will focus on Class A and Class 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). Following are brief descriptions of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 more 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 CDLs may also require endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Evaluate a CDL School
When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can start the undertaking of researching the Nikiski AK trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, location and cost will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So below are some more factors that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driving schools in the Nikiski AK area are accredited because of the stringent process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more typical and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, 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 curriculum and training will comply with the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Nikiski AK schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alaska licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the instructors in the next section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the individual attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that insists it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Nikiski AK schools offer training programs 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 Trainers? As previously stated, it's imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal approach is to check out the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driver school will provide lots of driving time to its students. Besides, 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 simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time fluctuates among schools, a reasonable 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 Nikiski AK schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from a number of truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining associations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Nikiski AK schools you are looking at are independent or captive 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 trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Alaska, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Alaska testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As previously noted, truck driving training is only about one to two months long. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Nikiski AK school you select offers 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 dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to start 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, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Nikiski AK employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Nikiski AK area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enroll in the Best Nikiski Truck Driver Training
Selecting the appropriate trucking school is a critical first step to beginning your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must receive the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking cash 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 select an independent truck driver school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Nikiski Alaska.