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How to Decide on the Right CDL Driving Classes near Tanaina Alaska

Tanaina Alaska tractor trailer carrying payloadCongratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Tanaina AK. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good income and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to obtain the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are certain factors that you'll want to think about before making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Tanaina home. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the optimal way to guarantee you'll obtain the right training. Just remember, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?

Tanaina Alaska truck traveling down expressway

To operate commercial vehicles legally within Tanaina AK and throughout the USA, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will focus on 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 brief summaries for the 2 classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 CDL is needed to drive 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. Some 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 need endorsements to drive certain kinds 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 license holder is authorized to operate.

How to Assess a Truck Driving School

Tanaina Alaska cement truck with patriotic paint job

After you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can begin the process of assessing the Tanaina AK truck driving schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other variables, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are some more things that you need to research while performing 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 Tanaina AK area are accredited because of the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, 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 a number of advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual 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 standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Operation? One indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Tanaina AK schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alaska licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.

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 cover more about the teachers in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the individual instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding 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 comparatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Tanaina AK schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.

How Good are the Teachers? As already stated, it's imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers may be a little more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the best method is to check out the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, a good trucking school will provide ample 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 essential training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time varies between 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. Contact the Tanaina AK schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.

Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from a number of truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular 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 having affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Tanaina AK schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving 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 accommodating than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Alaska testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV views 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 term, it's important that the Tanaina AK school you select provides 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 commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.

Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Tanaina AK employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Tanaina AK area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be completed.

Find Out More About Tanaina Trucker Schools

Enroll in the Right Tanaina Truck Driver Training

Selecting the appropriate trucking school is an essential first step to starting your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might want to think about 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 choose an independent CDL school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Tanaina Alaska.

 

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