How to Enroll in the Best CDL Driving School near Juneau Alaska
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Juneau AK. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good income and flexible work prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to receive the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain factors that you'll want to examine before making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Juneau residence. The expense will also be of importance, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal means to make sure you'll get the appropriate education. Just remember, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal 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 discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Is Required?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Juneau AK, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one 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 highlight Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief 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 more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed 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. 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also require endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School
As soon as you have determined which CDL you would like to pursue, you can start the process of assessing the Juneau AK trucking schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, location and cost will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other factors, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are some additional things that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Juneau AK area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common 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 be given plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 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 curriculum and training will satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Juneau AK schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alaska licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the personalized instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that claims it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Juneau AK schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As already mentioned, it's important that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers might be a little more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driver school will furnish sufficient 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 simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, 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 varies between schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Juneau AK schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from certain truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining 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 giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Juneau AK schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Alaska, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Alaska testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Juneau AK school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Juneau AK employers hiring their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Juneau AK area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted.
Select the Right Juneau AK CDL Driver Training
Picking the right trucking school is an essential first step to beginning your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must receive the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might want to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Juneau AK.