How to Enroll in the Right Trucker Classes near Fairbanks Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Fairbanks AK. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good income and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to obtain the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various variables that you'll need to examine before making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you have to commute from your Fairbanks residence. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the optimal means to guarantee you'll receive the right education. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover 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 Should You Get?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Fairbanks AK, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and 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 short descriptions of the two 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 more than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 CDL is needed to operate 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 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 may also require endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Research a Trucking School
After you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can start the process of researching the Fairbanks AK trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, cost and location will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other factors, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So following are some additional factors that you should research while performing your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Fairbanks AK area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, 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 a number of advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 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 satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Fairbanks 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 track record is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't supply those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alaska licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alaska and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher 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 look out for any school that professes it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Fairbanks AK schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As earlier stated, it's important that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of 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 vital that the teachers stay current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to check out the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driver school will provide 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 ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time differs between schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Fairbanks AK schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from a number of truck driver 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 affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Fairbanks AK schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. 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 contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Alaska testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As earlier noted, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Fairbanks 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 teacher should be willing to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. 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 Assistance Provided? As soon as you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement rate 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 lower job placement rate or few Fairbanks AK employers hiring their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Fairbanks AK area trade or technical 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 understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Select the Best Fairbanks AK Truck Driver Training
Picking the appropriate truck driving school is a critical first step to starting your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. However, you must obtain the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might want to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Fairbanks AK.