How to Pick a CDL Driving School near Palmer Alaska
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Palmer AK. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it’s important to receive the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are a number of variables that you’ll need to examine before making your final selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Palmer home. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based only on price is not the ideal method to make certain you’ll get the proper education. Don’t forget, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver’s license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Palmer AK, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What differentiates 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 short explanations of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 required 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 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 may also require endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School
When you have decided which CDL you would like to obtain, you can begin the process of evaluating the Palmer AK truck driving schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can’t be stressed enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other variables, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So following are some more things that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Palmer AK area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more typical and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school’s program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Palmer AK schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school’s track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won’t supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn’t hurt to check with the Alaska licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio 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 professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time frame. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Palmer AK schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As already mentioned, it’s important that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It’s also crucial that the teachers keep current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a little more subjective 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 speak with some of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher’s qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driving 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 necessary training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time differs between schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Palmer AK schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It’s possible to get discounted or even free training from some truck driving schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is what’s known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Palmer AK schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Alaska, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from other schools for test times at Alaska testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As formerly mentioned, CDL training is only about one to two months in length. With such a short term, it’s important that the Palmer AK school you enroll in provides 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 instructor should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you’re still working while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have received your commercial driver’s license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Palmer AK employers recruiting their grads, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Palmer AK area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Enrolling in a Truck Driving School near Palmer AK?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Palmer Alaska area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
Palmer is a city in and the borough seat of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough in the U.S. state of Alaska. It is part of the Anchorage Metropolitan Statistical Area. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city is 5,937.
The first people to live in the Matanuska Valley, where Palmer is located, were the Dena'ina and Ahtna Athabaskans. They moved throughout the area, living a subsistence lifestyle and trading with other native groups. Their trade routes were along the Matanuska River. Russians came to Alaska in 1741 and brought the Russian Orthodox religious tradition to the indigenous peoples of the region. In the early 1890s, an entrepreneur named George W. Palmer built a trading post on the Matanuska River, near present-day Palmer. The town was later named after Palmer.
In the late 19th century, the U.S. government began to take interest in the Matanuska coal fields located north of Palmer. This interest sparked financiers to consider constructing the Alaska Central Railroad in 1904. The advent of World War I created a need for high-quality coal to fuel U.S. battleships, and by 1917 the US Navy had constructed rail from the port of Seward to the Chickaloon coal deposits. At the end of World War I, the U.S. Navy distributed land in the coal fields to war veterans and additional land was opened to homesteading. Farmers, miners and homesteaders began to populate the area. The Palmer Post Office was opened July 6, 1917, under the name of Warton. With railroad accessibility, new markets for agriculture began to open up for farmers in the Matanuska Valley.
Choose the Right Truck Driving School Palmer AK
Choosing the appropriate truck driver school is an important first step to beginning your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver’s success. But first and foremost, you must receive the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might want to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It’s your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Palmer AK.
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