How to Find the Best Truck Driving Classes near Eagle River Alaska
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Eagle River AK. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible work prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to get the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several factors that you'll want to think about before making your final selection. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Eagle River residence. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based only on price is not the optimal method to guarantee you'll obtain the right training. Just remember, your goal 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 purpose in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the balance 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 drive commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Eagle River AK, a driver needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driver 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 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 Commercial Drivers License is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Some of the vehicles that operators may be able to drive 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 greater than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Some of the vehicles that operators may be qualified to drive 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 certain kinds of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Research a Truck Driving School
When you have decided which CDL you wish to obtain, you can start the process of researching the Eagle River AK truck driving schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other issues, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are several additional things that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Eagle River AK area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost 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 several advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get an ample amount 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 measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Eagle River AK schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alaska licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alaska and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the following section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual 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 insists it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Eagle River AK schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As already mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best 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 completing the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driving school will provide plenty of driving time to its students. After all, 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 tools, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time varies among schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Eagle River AK schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from certain truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified 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 maintaining affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to 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 only way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Eagle River AK schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking 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 convenient than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alaska testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As earlier noted, CDL training is just one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Eagle River AK school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient 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 graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Eagle River AK employers recruiting their grads, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Eagle River AK area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Best Eagle River AK Truck Driving Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driver school is an essential first step to beginning your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you may want to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Eagle River AK.