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How to Evaluate a Trucking School
As soon as you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Tanaina AK truck driving schools that you are looking at. 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 only considerations. Other factors, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are a few more things that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driving schools in the Tanaina AK area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more common and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. 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 assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A negatively reviewed 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 Tanaina AK schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alaska licensing department to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alaska and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the individual instruction they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that claims it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Tanaina AK schools provide training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As previously mentioned, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal approach is to check out the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a good 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 driving a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time can vary among schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Tanaina AK schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get free or discounted training from some truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Tanaina AK schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alaska, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alaska testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's important that the Tanaina AK school you choose offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Tanaina AK employers recruiting their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Tanaina 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 assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.