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How to Pick the Right CDL Training Classes near Sterling Alaska

Sterling Alaska tractor trailer hauling payloadCongratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Sterling AK. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to obtain the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several variables that you'll want to examine before making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Sterling residence. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the best means to make sure you'll get the proper education. Just remember, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective 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 discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.

Which CDL Will You Require?

Sterling Alaska tractor trailer driving down road

To operate commercial vehicles legally within Sterling AK and throughout the United States, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type 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 descriptions for the 2 classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of greater 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 CDLs may also require endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.

How to Assess a CDL School

Sterling Alaska cement mixer truck with flag paint job

When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Sterling AK truck driver schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other factors, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So following are several more factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Sterling AK area are accredited because of the demanding process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, 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. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will comply with the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. 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 best of Sterling AK schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alaska licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.

How Good 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 not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting 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 professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Sterling AK schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.

How Good are the Teachers? As previously mentioned, it's imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a little more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and talk to 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 level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.

Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a good trucking school will provide lots of driving time to its students. Besides, 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 ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time varies among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Sterling AK schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from certain truck driving schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Sterling AK schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Alaska, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alaska testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Class Times Flexible? As previously noted, truck driver training is just one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Sterling 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 certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to dedicate 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 responsibilities.

Is Job Assistance Offered? Once 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 assistance programs. Ask 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 employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Sterling AK employers hiring their grads, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Sterling AK area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.

Find Out More About Sterling Truck Driving Schools

Enroll in the Best Sterling CDL Training

Choosing the right trucking school is a critical first step to starting your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. However, you must receive the necessary training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you may want to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Sterling Alaska.

 

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