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How to Select the Right Truck Driving School near Palmer Alaska

Palmer Alaska tractor trailer carrying cargoCongratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Palmer AK. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible work opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to receive the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several variables that you'll want to think about prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Palmer residence. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based solely on price is not the optimal means to ensure you'll get the appropriate training. Don't forget, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.

Which CDL Will You Require?

Palmer Alaska tractor trailer traveling down highway

To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Palmer AK and throughout the USA, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three 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 driver school, we will focus on 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). Below are short descriptions for the 2 classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License 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. 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 needed to drive 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 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 might 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, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.

How to Assess a Trucking School

Palmer Alaska concrete mixer truck with patriotic paint job

After you have decided which CDL you want to pursue, you can start the process of evaluating the Palmer AK trucking schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other variables, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are some additional things that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Palmer AK area are accredited due to the rigorous 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 required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given lots 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 course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Palmer 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 history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alaska licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.

How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alaska and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personalized attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Palmer AK schools provide training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.

How Good are the Trainers? As previously stated, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and possibly the best method is to pay a visit to 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? Most importantly, a great truck driving school will provide sufficient 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 substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time differs between 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. Get in touch with the Palmer AK schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from some trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. 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 free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Palmer AK schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Alaska, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates of other schools for test times at Alaska testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Classes Flexible? As previously noted, truck driver training is just one to two months long. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Palmer AK school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. 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 attained 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 reviewing have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Palmer AK employers hiring their grads, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Palmer AK area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.

Learn More About Palmer CDL Training Schools

Enroll in the Right Palmer Truck Driver Training

Picking the appropriate truck driving school is a critical first step to launching your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driver school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Palmer Alaska.

 

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