How to Find the Best Truck Driver Classes near Anchorage Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Anchorage AK. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible job prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to get the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are a number of variables that you'll need to consider before making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be important, especially if you need to commute from your Anchorage residence. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based only on price is not the optimal way to ensure you'll get the right education. Don't forget, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That 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 ultimately need.
Which CDL Is Required?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States 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 subject of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will focus on Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short explanations for 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 more than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed 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. Some 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 CDLs may also require endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Research a Truck Driver School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can start the process of researching the Anchorage AK trucking schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, cost and location will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So following are some additional points that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Anchorage AK area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace 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 standard, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. 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 benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Anchorage AK schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alaska licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should 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 higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the individual instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists 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 skillfully requires time. Most Anchorage AK schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As previously stated, it's imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers keep current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers might be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to visit the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driver 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. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time fluctuates among schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Anchorage AK schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get free or discounted training from a number of truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having 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 giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. 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 make sure to ask if the Anchorage AK schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Alaska, find out if the schools you are looking at 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 also an indicator that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As earlier noted, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Anchorage AK school you select provides 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 willing to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Anchorage AK employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Anchorage 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 evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Right Anchorage AK CDL Training
Selecting the ideal truck driver school is a critical first step to starting your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn 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. However, you must obtain the necessary training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might want to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Anchorage AK.