How to Enroll in the Best CDL Driving School near Juneau Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Juneau AK. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible work 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 assessing your options, there are various factors that you'll need to think about before making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Juneau residence. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the optimal way to make sure you'll get the proper education. Just remember, 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 objective in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Is Required?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Juneau AK, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will focus on Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind 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 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 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 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 may also require endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Assess a Truck Driver School
When you have determined which CDL you want to obtain, you can begin the process of evaluating the Juneau AK truck driving schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only 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 additional points that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Juneau AK area are accredited because of the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given lots 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 curriculum and training will measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue 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 normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Juneau AK schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alaska licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alaska and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the teachers in the following section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personalized attention 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 insists it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Juneau AK schools offer training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As previously mentioned, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal approach is to check out the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will furnish lots of driving time to its students. After all, 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 necessary training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time can vary 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. Check with the Juneau AK schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining associations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Juneau AK schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alaska, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alaska testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As previously noted, truck driver training is only about one to two months long. With such a short term, it's important that the Juneau AK school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement rate 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 few Juneau AK employers hiring their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Juneau 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 examining have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enroll in the Right Juneau AK CDL Training
Selecting the ideal truck driver school is an important first step to starting your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must receive the necessary training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on cash or financing, you may need to look into 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 select an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Juneau AK.