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How to Pick the Right Trucker School near Nikiski Alaska

Nikiski Alaska truck hauling payloadCongratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Nikiski AK. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers good income and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to receive the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of variables that you'll want to examine prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Nikiski home. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the ideal way to make certain you'll obtain the proper training. 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 target in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?

Nikiski Alaska tractor trailer traveling down expressway

In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Nikiski AK and throughout the USA, an operator must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes 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). Below are short summaries for the 2 classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 operate single vehicles having a GVWR of greater 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 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 may also need endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.

How to Assess a Truck Driver School

Nikiski Alaska cement truck with patriotic paint job

As soon as you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Nikiski AK trucking schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other issues, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So below are some additional factors that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Nikiski AK area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's program is certified (the program, 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 Business? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated 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 top Nikiski AK schools had to start from their first 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 job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alaska licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.

How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alaska and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will cover 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 personalized attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Nikiski AK schools provide training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class 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 several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors might be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the best method is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.

How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driver school will provide lots of driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time fluctuates among schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish 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 get free or discounted training from some truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having associations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Nikiski AK schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted 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 battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alaska testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Class Times Accessible? As earlier noted, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief term, it's important that the Nikiski AK school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.

Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Nikiski AK employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Nikiski 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 assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.

Learn More About Nikiski Trucking Schools

Choose the Right Nikiski CDL Training

Choosing the ideal truck driver school is a critical first step to launching your new vocation 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 a number of options offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must receive the proper training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might need to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Nikiski Alaska.

 

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