How to Enroll in the Best Trucking Classes near Sitka Alaska
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Sitka AK. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's important to obtain the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of variables that you'll want to think about prior to making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, especially if you need to commute from your Sitka residence. The cost will also be important, but choosing a school based solely on price is not the optimal means to make sure you'll receive the proper training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within Sitka AK and throughout the United States, a driver needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver 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 discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes 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 explanations for the 2 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 more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more 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 CDLs might also require endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Assess a Truck Driver School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can start the process of assessing the Sitka AK truck driving schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other issues, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So below are a few additional points that you should research while performing your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Sitka AK area are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, 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 certain advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get lots of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school normally 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 start from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alaska licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing 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 trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the individual attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Sitka AK schools offer training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As earlier mentioned, it's important that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the best approach is to visit the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, 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 real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time differs between schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Sitka AK schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive free or discounted training from some truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular 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 associations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just make 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 a number of states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alaska, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alaska testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the Sitka AK school you select offers 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 prepared to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Confirm 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, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Sitka AK employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Sitka AK area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.
Enroll in the Right Sitka CDL Training
Choosing the ideal truck driver school is an important first step to starting your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. However, you must obtain the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on money or financing, you may want 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 trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Sitka Alaska.