How to Select the Right CDL Driving Classes near Wasilla Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Wasilla AK. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have found that a career as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to receive the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain variables that you'll need to think about before making your final selection. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Wasilla home. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the ideal method to make sure you'll get the right education. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question 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 commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within Wasilla AK and throughout the United States, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will address 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). Below are brief descriptions for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 required to operate 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 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also require endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Research a CDL School
As soon as you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can start the process of assessing the Wasilla AK truck driving schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other issues, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So below are some more points that you need to research while performing your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Wasilla AK area are accredited because of 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 a number of advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real 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 training and curriculum will measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? 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 normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Wasilla AK schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alaska licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the next segment. In addition, 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 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 claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Wasilla AK schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As previously mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driving school will furnish ample 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 simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time fluctuates between schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Wasilla AK schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive discounted or even free training from certain trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining 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 work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Wasilla AK schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alaska, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from other schools for test times at Alaska testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As earlier noted, CDL training is only about one to two months in length. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Wasilla AK school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Wasilla AK employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Wasilla AK area technical or vocational 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 aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted.
Choose the Best Wasilla Truck Driver Training
Selecting the ideal truck driving school is an essential first step to launching your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. However, you must obtain the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may need to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent CDL school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will soon be part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Wasilla Alaska.