How to Decide on the Right Trucker Classes near Palmer Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Palmer AK. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's important to obtain the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various factors that you'll need to consider prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Palmer home. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based only on price is not the optimal means to make certain you'll get the proper training. Just remember, 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 objective 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 talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally 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 topic of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more 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 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 might also need endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Research a CDL School
When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of researching the Palmer AK truck driving schools that you are considering. As already discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other factors, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are several more points 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 Palmer AK area are accredited because of the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get an ample amount 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 training and curriculum will measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Palmer AK schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alaska licensing department to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alaska and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the instructors in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual 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 time period. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Palmer AK schools provide training programs that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driving school will furnish plenty of 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 operating a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time differs among schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Palmer AK schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get discounted or even free training from some trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having relationships with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Palmer AK schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Alaska, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at Alaska testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As previously noted, truck driver training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the Palmer AK school you select provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? As soon as you have received your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Palmer AK employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Palmer AK area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Best Palmer Truck Driver Training
Selecting the ideal truck driver school is an essential first step to beginning your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, you must obtain the necessary 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 consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases 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 company of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Palmer Alaska.