How to Select the Right CDL Driving School near Juneau Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Juneau AK. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to obtain the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several variables that you'll want to examine prior to making your final selection. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Juneau home. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the best means to make sure you'll get the right education. Just remember, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Juneau AK, an operator must 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 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). Below are brief summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 CDL is required to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of more 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 CDLs may also require endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School
Once you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can start the process of assessing the Juneau AK truck driving schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other issues, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So below are several more things that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Juneau AK area are accredited because of the rigorous 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. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 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 measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Juneau AK schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alaska licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the next segment. Also, 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 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 train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Juneau AK schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As earlier mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driving school will furnish plenty of 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 driving a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. 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 find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from some truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Juneau AK schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted 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 contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alaska testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As previously noted, truck driving training is only about one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Juneau AK school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. 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 are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Juneau AK employers recruiting their grads, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Juneau AK area technical or vocational 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 aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Right Juneau AK Truck Driving Training
Selecting the ideal trucking school is an essential first step to launching 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 offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must receive the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might need to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Juneau AK.