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How to Research a Truck Driving School
Once you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can start the process of researching the Wasilla AK trucking schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other variables, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are some more factors that you should research while performing your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Wasilla AK area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense 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 obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 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 measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Wasilla AK schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a quality 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 reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alaska and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the personalized attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Wasilla AK schools provide training courses that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As already stated, it's important that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers stay current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the best method is to visit the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driving school will furnish lots of driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time differs among schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Wasilla AK schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from a number of truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having relationships 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 surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict 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 inquire if the Wasilla AK schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Alaska, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alaska testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As formerly mentioned, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's essential that the Wasilla AK school you select offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to dedicate 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 fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Wasilla AK employers hiring their grads, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Wasilla AK area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.