How to Choose the Right Trucker Classes 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 road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible job prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's important to receive the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of factors that you'll want to consider before making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Juneau residence. The cost will also be important, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the best method to make sure you'll obtain the right training. Don't forget, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That 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 Is Required?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Juneau AK, an operator must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will highlight 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). Following are short descriptions for the two 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. A few 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 needed to drive 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 drive specific types of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Research a Trucker School
After you have determined which CDL you would like to pursue, you can start the process of evaluating the Juneau AK trucking schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other factors, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So following are several more points that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the Juneau AK area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, 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 several advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get an ample amount 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 comply with the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driver 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. On the other hand, even the top Juneau AK schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alaska licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personal instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that claims it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Juneau AK schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously stated, it's important that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher 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 teachers might be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the best method is to visit the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driving school will provide ample 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. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time differs between schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Juneau AK schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get discounted or even free training from certain truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide 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 benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Juneau AK schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several 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 looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alaska testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As previously noted, truck driving training is only about one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Juneau AK school you choose offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. 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 responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? The moment you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Juneau AK employers hiring their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? 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. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Right Juneau AK CDL Training
Selecting the ideal truck driving school is a critical first step to starting your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the necessary training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you may want to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive 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 many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be joining a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Juneau AK.