How to Select the Right Truck Driver School near Eagle River Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Eagle River AK. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good income and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to receive the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are certain variables that you'll need to think about prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be important, especially if you need to commute from your Eagle River residence. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the optimal method to make sure you'll get the right education. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address 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 Is Required?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Eagle River AK, a driver must attain 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. Given that the subject of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief descriptions of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also need endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Assess a Trucker School
As soon as you have determined which CDL you would like to pursue, you can start the process of evaluating the Eagle River AK truck driving schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other variables, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So below are several additional things that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Eagle River AK area are accredited because of the stringent process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get lots of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real 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 fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Eagle River AK schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alaska licensing department to make sure 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 employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the teachers in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the personal attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that professes it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Eagle River AK schools offer training courses that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As earlier stated, it's important that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to visit the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driving 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 simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training tools, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time varies among schools, a good benchmark 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 Eagle River AK schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from a number of trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having relationships with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Eagle River AK schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Alaska, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alaska testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As formerly mentioned, CDL training is just one to two months long. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Eagle River 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 particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? The moment you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Eagle River AK employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Eagle River AK area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be submitted.
Select the Best Eagle River AK CDL Driver Training
Selecting the right truck driver school is a critical first step to beginning your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you might want 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 choose an independent CDL school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Eagle River AK.