How to Pick the Right Trucking Classes near Steele Creek Alaska
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Steele Creek AK. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides good income and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to get the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various variables that you'll need to consider prior to making your final selection. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Steele Creek residence. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the ideal method to ensure you'll get the proper education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within Steele Creek AK and throughout the United States, a driver needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will address Class A and 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 drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. A few of the vehicles that operators may be able to drive 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. A few of the vehicles that operators may be qualified to drive 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 specific types of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Assess a Truck Driving School
When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Steele Creek AK truck driver schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other factors, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So below are a few more points that you should research while conducting your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Steele Creek AK area are accredited due to the demanding process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get lots of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual 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 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 ranked or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Steele Creek AK schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alaska licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alaska and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personal instruction they will need. This is particularly 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 drive trucks in a relatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Steele Creek AK schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As already mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors might be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal approach is to visit the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driving school will furnish 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 driving a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time varies among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Steele Creek AK schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from some truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Steele Creek AK schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alaska, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from other schools for test times at Alaska testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As previously noted, truck driver training is only about one to two months in length. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Steele Creek AK school you choose offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Steele Creek AK employers hiring their grads, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Steele Creek 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 evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be submitted.
Choose the Right Steele Creek Truck Driver Training
Choosing the right truck driver school is an important first step to beginning your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, you must get the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you might need to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Steele Creek Alaska.