How to Select the Best Truck Driving Classes near Fairbanks Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Fairbanks AK. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open road while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several factors that you'll want to think about prior to making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Fairbanks home. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based solely on price is not the best method to ensure you'll receive the right education. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you select 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 Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Fairbanks AK, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will address 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 brief descriptions of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more 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 required to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more 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 may also require endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a CDL School
When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can begin the process of assessing the Fairbanks AK truck driving schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other issues, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So following are several more things 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 due to the demanding 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 required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive plenty 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 training and curriculum will comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Fairbanks AK schools had to start from their opening 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 job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alaska licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the individual attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Fairbanks AK schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors may be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, a great trucking school will furnish plenty of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time varies between schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Fairbanks AK schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with 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. Obviously 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 ask if the Fairbanks AK schools you are looking at 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 trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alaska, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alaska testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As previously noted, truck driving training is just one to two months in length. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Fairbanks AK school you select offers 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 teacher should be prepared to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to start your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Fairbanks AK employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? 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 offered. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Best Fairbanks AK Truck Driver Training
Picking the appropriate truck driving school is an important first step to beginning your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, you must receive the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you may need 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 trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Fairbanks AK.