How to Select the Right Trucking Classes near Eagle River Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Eagle River AK. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible work opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to get the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of variables that you'll want to think about prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Eagle River home. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the optimal way to make certain you'll obtain the proper training. Just remember, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Is Required?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Eagle River AK, an operator must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will discuss Class A and B licenses. What differentiates 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). Following are short 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 more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater 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 operate certain types of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Assess a CDL School
When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can start the process of assessing the Eagle River AK trucking schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, location and cost will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other issues, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So below are several additional points that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Eagle River AK area are accredited due to the demanding process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical 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 plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 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 curriculum and training will satisfy the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Eagle River AK schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt 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 must be licensed in Alaska and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the next section. In addition, 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 personalized attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Eagle River AK schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As already stated, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers stay current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal method is to check out the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much 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 actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no replacement 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 varies among schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Eagle River AK schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get free or discounted training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining associations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Eagle River AK schools you are considering 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 allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Alaska, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alaska testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As formerly noted, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Eagle River AK school you enroll in offers 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 instructor should be prepared to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Eagle River AK employers hiring their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Eagle River AK area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Best Eagle River AK CDL Training
Selecting the appropriate truck driver school is an essential first step to beginning your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you might need to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Eagle River AK.