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How to Select the Right Trucker School near Sitka Alaska

Sitka Alaska tractor trailer carrying payloadCongrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Sitka AK. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible work prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's important to get the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are a number of factors that you'll want to consider before making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Sitka home. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the ideal method to guarantee you'll get the appropriate education. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the rest 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 Require?

Sitka Alaska truck driving down highway

In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Sitka AK and throughout the United States, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 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 driving school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short explanations for the 2 classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of more 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also require endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.

How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School

Sitka Alaska cement mixer truck with patriotic paint job

As soon as you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the process of evaluating the Sitka AK truck driver schools that you are considering. As already discussed, location and cost will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other factors, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So following are several additional points that you should research while conducting your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Sitka AK area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 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 measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.

How Long in Operation? One indicator to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Sitka AK schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alaska licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.

How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personalized instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Sitka AK schools offer training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.

Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driver school will provide sufficient 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 operating a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, they are no substitute for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time can vary among schools, a good 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 Sitka AK schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain free or discounted training from some truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having relationships with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Sitka AK schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Alaska, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Alaska testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Classes Accessible? As formerly noted, truck driver training is only about one to two months in length. With such a short duration, it's important that the Sitka AK school you enroll in provides 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 instructor should be willing 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 accommodate working hours or other obligations.

Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Sitka AK employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Sitka AK area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.

Find Out More About Sitka Truck Driver Classes

Enroll in the Best Sitka CDL Training

Selecting the right truck driver school is an important first step to beginning your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must get the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might need to consider 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 driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Sitka Alaska.

 

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