How to Choose a Truck Driving School near Houston Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Houston AK. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides good pay and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it’s important to receive the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of variables that you’ll need to think about before making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Houston residence. The expense will also be of importance, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the optimal method to guarantee you’ll receive the appropriate education. 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 purpose in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That 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 ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Houston AK, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The three classes of licenses that a driver can apply 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 discuss Class A and Class 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 brief 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 greater 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 required to drive 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. Some 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 CDLs might also need endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School
After you have determined which CDL you wish to pursue, you can start the process of evaluating the Houston AK trucking schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can’t be stressed enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other variables, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So below are some more things that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Houston AK area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, 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 training and curriculum will meet the very high standards 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 negatively reviewed 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 Houston AK schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school’s track record is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won’t share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn’t hurt to check with the Alaska licensing department to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the teachers in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personalized attention they will need. This is especially true concerning 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 period. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Houston AK schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it’s imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also crucial that the teachers keep current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to check out the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher’s ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driver school will furnish lots of driving time to its students. Besides, isn’t that what it’s all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time can vary among schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Houston AK schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get discounted or even free training from a number of trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specified 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 having relationships with a wide range of 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 surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Houston AK schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Alaska, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at Alaska testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As formerly mentioned, truck driving training is just one to two months long. With such a short term, it’s important that the Houston AK school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you’re having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you’re still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? The moment you have obtained your commercial driver’s license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Houston AK employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Houston 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 assessing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Enrolling in a Truck Driving School near Houston AK?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Houston Alaska area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
USS Houston (AK-1)
USS Houston (AK-1) was a cargo ship that was acquired by the U.S. Navy for service in World War I. During World War II, she served as a commercial cargo ship under charter to the United States Lines by the War Shipping Administration.
The first Navy ship to be named Houston, AK-1 was the former German freighter SS Liebenfels, built by Bremer Vulcan, Vegesack, Germany, in 1903. Operated by the Hansa Line, she arrived at Charleston, South Carolina, in August 1914, and remained there until 1 February 1917, when her German crew scuttled her. Finding her sunk and abandoned, U.S. authorities set about to raise the ship and took her to Charleston Navy Yard for refitting on 20 March 1917. She was commissioned as Houston (AK-1) on 3 July 1917, Lt. Comdr. W. H. Lee, USNRF commanding.
Assigned to the transport service, Houston departed Charleston 11 July 1917, loaded coal and oil at Hampton Roads, and joined a convoy sailing from New York on 7 August 1917. She arrived at Brest on 25 August and subsequently made four voyages to and from New York transporting radio equipment, trucks, airplanes, and general supplies. Returning to New York on 18 November 1918, the ship was assigned to the Naval Overseas Transportation Service, and made four more voyages between the East and West coasts of the United States, departing on the first of these 15 December 1918 from New York. Until her return to New York 14 April 1921 Houston carried coal, ordnance, lumber, and general supplies between the coasts in support of the Navy's two-ocean operations.
Pick the Right CDL School Houston AK
Selecting the ideal truck driver school is an important first step to starting your new occupation as a local or long distance 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 appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on money or financing, you might want to look into 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 choose an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, 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 entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Houston AK.
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