How to Enroll in the Right Truck Driving School near Anchorage Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Anchorage AK. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's important to get the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of factors that you'll want to think about before making your final choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Anchorage residence. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the ideal way to guarantee you'll receive the appropriate training. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Anchorage AK, an operator must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short explanations for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive 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 more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. A few of the vehicles that drivers may be qualified to operate 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 might also need endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Assess a Trucking School
When you have determined which CDL you want to pursue, you can begin the process of researching the Anchorage AK truck driving schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other issues, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So following are some more factors that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Anchorage AK area are accredited due to the rigorous process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent and is offered 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 standard, and that they will get lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 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 curriculum and training will fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Anchorage AK schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also learn 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 maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alaska licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the individual attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for 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 skillfully takes time. The majority of Anchorage AK schools offer training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As previously mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a little more subjective than other standards, and possibly the best approach is to check out the school and speak with the teachers in person. 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 ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a good trucking school will provide plenty of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important 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 fluctuates between schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Anchorage AK schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from a number of truck driving schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining associations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Anchorage AK schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Alaska, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of other schools for test times at Alaska testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As formerly noted, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it's important that the Anchorage AK school you select offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Anchorage AK employers hiring their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Anchorage AK area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.
Select the Best Anchorage AK Truck Driving Training
Picking the right trucking school is an important first step to beginning your new occupation 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 offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must receive the necessary training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you might want to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent CDL school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Anchorage AK.