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How to Decide on the Best CDL Training School near Palmer Alaska

Palmer Alaska truck carrying cargoCongratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Palmer AK. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible work prospects. No matter what 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 certain variables that you'll want to think about prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Palmer residence. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the best way to ensure you'll get the right training. Don't forget, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That 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 CDL license you will eventually need.

Which CDL Will You Need?

Palmer Alaska tractor trailer traveling down highway

In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Palmer AK and throughout the USA, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind 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 two 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. 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 needed to drive 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. 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also need endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.

How to Evaluate a Trucking School

Palmer Alaska cement truck with patriotic paint job

When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Palmer AK truck driving schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So below are several additional things that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Palmer AK area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real 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 fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Palmer AK schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school's track record is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alaska licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking 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 instructors that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater 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 look out for any school that claims it can train you to be a truck driver 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 offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Teachers? As already mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the best approach is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

How Much Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driver school will provide 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. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time varies between schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Palmer AK schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.

Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from some truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Palmer AK schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow 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 convenient than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alaska testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Classes Accessible? As formerly mentioned, truck driving training is just one to two months long. With such a short term, it's important that the Palmer AK school you choose offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular 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 needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.

Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Palmer AK employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driver 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 offered. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be submitted.

Find Out More About Palmer Truck Driver Schools

Enroll in the Right Palmer Truck Driver Training

Picking the right trucking school is a critical first step to starting your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills 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 if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must get the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm 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 entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Palmer Alaska.

 

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