How to Pick the Right Truck Driver Classes near Fairbanks Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Fairbanks AK. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides good pay and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to receive the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various factors that you'll want to think about prior to making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Fairbanks residence. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal means to ensure you'll receive the appropriate training. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Fairbanks AK, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will address Class A and Class 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 brief summaries for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more 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 Commercial Drivers License is required to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. A few 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 may also require endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Assess a Truck Driver School
As soon as you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can begin the process of evaluating the Fairbanks AK truck driving schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, location and cost will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other factors, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are some additional factors that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Fairbanks AK area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, 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 a number of advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A negatively 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 Fairbanks AK schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's track record is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alaska licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no 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 claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Fairbanks AK schools provide training programs that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As previously stated, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors stay current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors might be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to check out the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, 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 real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time varies among schools, a good 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 Fairbanks AK schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain free or discounted training from a number of truck driving schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer 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 work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. 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 inquire if the Fairbanks AK schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. 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 contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Alaska testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier noted, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Fairbanks AK school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. 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 attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have received your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Fairbanks AK employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Fairbanks AK area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Best Fairbanks AK Truck Driver Training
Selecting the ideal truck driver school is an important first step to launching your new profession 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 several options offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on cash or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Fairbanks AK.