How to Decide on the Best Truck Driving School 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 fantasy to hit the open road while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to obtain the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several variables that you'll need to examine prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Fairbanks residence. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal means to ensure you'll obtain the proper training. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target 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 remainder of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Fairbanks AK, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind 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 explanations of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more 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 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. Several 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 operate certain types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Research a Truck Driver School
When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Fairbanks AK truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, cost and location will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other issues, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So following are a few additional factors that you should research while performing your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Fairbanks AK area are accredited because of the stringent process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual 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 curriculum and training will fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Fairbanks AK schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's track record is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alaska licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personal 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 teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Fairbanks AK schools offer training courses that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As already mentioned, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors may be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to visit the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with some 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.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driver school will furnish sufficient 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 ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time fluctuates between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Fairbanks AK schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from some trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having associations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Fairbanks AK schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alaska, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alaska testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As previously noted, truck driving training is only about one to two months in length. With such a short term, it's essential 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 a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Fairbanks AK employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Fairbanks AK area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Right Fairbanks AK Truck Driving Training
Picking the ideal trucking school is an essential first step to starting your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. However, you must receive the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking money or financing, you may want to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Fairbanks AK.