How to Choose a CDL Training School Girdwood Alaska
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Girdwood AK. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it’s imperative to receive the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of factors that you’ll need to think about before making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Girdwood home. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based only on price is not the ideal means to ensure you’ll obtain the appropriate training. Don’t forget, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective 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 balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Girdwood AK, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will discuss 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). Following are brief descriptions of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also require endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Assess a Truck Driving School
When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Girdwood AK trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can’t be emphasized enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other issues, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are several more points that you should research while performing your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Girdwood AK area are accredited due to the rigorous 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 certain advantages. Potential students recognize 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 simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school’s program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driver 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. On the other hand, even the top Girdwood AK schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school’s track record is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won’t share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn’t hurt to check with the Alaska licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it’s any higher, then students will not be getting 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 professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Girdwood AK schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As previously stated, it’s imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It’s also important that the teachers keep current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal approach is to check out the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher’s qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, a good trucking school will furnish 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 driving a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time varies among schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Girdwood AK schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It’s possible to obtain free or discounted training from a number of truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining associations 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 surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Girdwood AK schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alaska, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alaska testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As previously mentioned, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short term, it’s important that the Girdwood AK school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you’re having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you’re still working while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Girdwood AK employers hiring their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Girdwood AK area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. 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.
Attending Truck Driving School near Girdwood AK?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Girdwood Alaska area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
Girdwood is a resort town within the southern extent of the Municipality of Anchorage in the state of Alaska. Located near the end of the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet, Girdwood lies in a valley in the southwestern Chugach Mountains, surrounded by seven glaciers feeding into a number of creeks, which either converge within the valley or empty directly into the arm. Girdwood is typically accessed by the Seward Highway (Milepost 90), with the main line of the Alaska Railroad paralleling the highway. By road distance, most of the community lies within 35 to 40 miles (56 to 64 km) of downtown Anchorage. According to 2014 estimates, a little under 2,000 people live in the valley.
Founded as a community to supply miners during the Turnagain Arm gold rushes of the 1890s, Girdwood was mostly a small, quiet place until the middle of the 20th century. Two events drastically altered that. The first was the establishment of Alyeska Resort along the slopes of Mount Alyeska, which became an international destination coincidental with Anchorage's civic promotion of itself as "The Air Crossroads of the World". The second was the 1964 earthquake, which devastated the original townsite located directly along the arm. Following the earthquake, most of the town moved further up the valley to a new townsite, though a few homes remained and a strip mall was later constructed along the Seward Highway. Historically dominated in the years since the resort's opening by seasonally-occupied vacation homes and seasonal activity at the resort, the opening of the Alyeska Prince Hotel during the 1990s has shifted the resort, and hence Girdwood as a whole, more towards year-round activity and a year-round economy. This has led to periodic debates about community growth and affordability of housing for resort workers, many of whom over the years have resorted to camping illegally on public lands.
Girdwood still revolves heavily around seasonal activity, with skiing and snowboarding at Alyeska Resort bringing visitors and their money into the community. Summer activities are also popular, which include hiking, fishing and rafting. The Girdwood Forest Fair, held every July, is the community's most significant visitor attraction apart from resort-related activities. Girdwood is located within the northernmost extent of rain forest on Earth, and also serves as the closest point of access to Chugach National Forest from Anchorage proper.
Select the Right Truck Driver School Girdwood AK
Picking the appropriate truck driver school is an important first step to launching 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 several options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver’s success. Most importantly, you must receive the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might want to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It’s your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Girdwood AK.
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