How to Enroll in the Best Trucker School near Eagle River Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Eagle River AK. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to get the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of factors that you'll want to think about before making your final choice. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you have to commute from your Eagle River residence. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the ideal means to make certain you'll obtain the right education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Eagle River AK, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving 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 as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 operate single vehicles having a GVWR of greater 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 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 CDLs might also require endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Assess a CDL School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you want to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the Eagle River AK truck driver schools that you are considering. As already discussed, location and cost will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other variables, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are a few additional points that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially 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 rigorous process and expense 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 a number of advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual 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 meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help measure the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Eagle River AK schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alaska licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are researching 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 discuss 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 obtaining the individual attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Eagle River AK schools provide training programs that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As already mentioned, it's important that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify 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. Evaluating instructors may be a little more subjective than other standards, and possibly the ideal method is to check out the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a good 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 real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Eagle River AK schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Eagle River AK schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alaska, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alaska testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As previously mentioned, CDL training is only about one to two months long. With such a short 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 certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job assistance 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 employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Eagle River AK employers hiring their grads, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid 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 assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Right Eagle River AK CDL Driver Training
Picking the ideal truck driving school is a critical first step to launching your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking 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 choose an independent truck driver school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be joining a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Eagle River AK.