How to Decide on the Best Trucking School near Anchorage Alaska
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Anchorage AK. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of factors that you'll need to examine prior to making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Anchorage residence. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the best way to ensure you'll obtain the appropriate education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills 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 cover 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 CDL Should You Get?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Anchorage AK, an operator must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will highlight 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). 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. 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 CDL is required to drive 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. Several 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 might also require endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School
Once you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can begin the process of researching the Anchorage AK truck driving schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only 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 more points that you need to research while performing your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Anchorage AK area are accredited due to the rigorous process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's program is certified (the program, 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 truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Anchorage AK schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alaska licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good 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. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving 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 comparatively short time frame. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Anchorage AK schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As earlier stated, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors may be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a great 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 operating a truck. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training tools, they are no replacement 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 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Anchorage AK schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from a number of truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Anchorage AK schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alaska, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at Alaska testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As earlier noted, truck driver training is just one to two months in length. With such a short term, it's important that the Anchorage AK school you enroll in 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 teacher should be willing to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to begin your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Anchorage AK employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? 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 aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Best Anchorage AK Truck Driving Training
Picking the appropriate truck driver school is an essential first step to starting your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must receive the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on funds 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 select an independent trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Anchorage AK.