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How to Enroll in the Right Trucker Classes near Sterling Alaska

Sterling Alaska tractor trailer hauling payloadCongrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Sterling AK. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides good pay and flexible work prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to receive the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain factors that you'll want to examine prior to making your final choice. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Sterling home. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based only on price is not the best method to make sure you'll receive the appropriate training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.

Which CDL Will You Require?

Sterling Alaska tractor trailer driving down highway

To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Sterling AK and throughout the USA, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief explanations of 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. Some 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 more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater 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 drive specific types of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.

How to Research a CDL School

Sterling Alaska cement truck with patriotic paint job

Once you have determined which CDL you would like to pursue, you can start the process of assessing the Sterling AK truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other issues, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are a few more things that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Sterling AK area are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 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 curriculum and training will fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Sterling AK schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alaska licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.

How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alaska and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following section. Also, 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 instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires 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 kind of vehicle.

How Good are the Teachers? As earlier stated, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors may be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal approach is to check out the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driver school will provide lots of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Sterling AK schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.

Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from certain trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to inquire 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 some states that will permit 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 offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alaska testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Classes Convenient? As earlier mentioned, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the Sterling AK school you select 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 teacher should be prepared to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.

Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have attained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Sterling AK employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Sterling AK area trade or technical 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 least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.

Learn More About Sterling Trucker Classes

Choose the Right Sterling CDL Training

Selecting the ideal truck driving school is an essential first step to starting your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you may want to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Sterling Alaska.

 

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