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How to Find the Best Trucker School near Nikiski Alaska

Nikiski Alaska truck hauling cargoCongrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Nikiski AK. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various factors that you'll want to consider prior to making your final selection. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Nikiski home. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the optimal method to make certain you'll obtain the proper training. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective 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 remainder of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?

Nikiski Alaska tractor trailer driving down road

In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Nikiski AK and throughout the USA, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and Class 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 summaries for the 2 classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more 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 Commercial Drivers License is required to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of greater 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 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 need endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.

How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School

Nikiski Alaska cement mixer truck with flag paint job

After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can start the undertaking of researching the Nikiski AK trucking schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other variables, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So below are a few additional things that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Nikiski AK area are accredited because of the rigorous process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is offered 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 quality, and that they will receive plenty 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 training and curriculum will measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Nikiski AK schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alaska licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.

How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alaska and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personal 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 comparatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Nikiski AK schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Trainers? As earlier stated, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors might be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to visit the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driving school will furnish ample driving time to its students. Besides, 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 essential training methods, 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 at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Nikiski AK schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from certain trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with numerous 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 surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Nikiski AK schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Alaska, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of 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 superior quality.

Are the Class Times Accessible? As earlier noted, truck driver training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Nikiski AK school you choose provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.

Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out 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 not many Nikiski AK employers recruiting their grads, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.

Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Nikiski 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 examining have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.

Learn More About Nikiski Truck Driving Schools

Enroll in the Right Nikiski Truck Driver Training

Picking the appropriate truck driving school is an essential first step to launching your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn 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. But first and foremost, you must receive the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might need to consider 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 CDL school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Nikiski Alaska.

 

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