How to Decide on a CDL Driving School near Saint Marys Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Saint Marys AK. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides good income and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it’s important to obtain the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of factors that you’ll need to think about prior to making your final choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Saint Marys residence. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal means to make certain you’ll get the proper training. Don’t forget, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional 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 remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Saint Marys AK, a driver must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 license classes that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will address Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief descriptions of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater 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 CDL is needed to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of more 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 CDLs may also require endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Research a Trucking School
As soon as you have determined which CDL you want to obtain, you can start the process of researching the Saint Marys AK trucking schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can’t be emphasized enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other issues, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So following are some additional factors that you need to research while conducting your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the Saint Marys AK area are accredited because of the stringent process and cost 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 required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive lots of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. 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 benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? 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 normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Saint Marys AK schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school’s history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won’t provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn’t hurt to contact the Alaska licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alaska and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personalized 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 insists it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Saint Marys AK schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As previously stated, it’s imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also crucial that the instructors stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher’s qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, a good trucking school will provide ample driving time to its students. Besides, isn’t that what it’s all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time fluctuates 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. Check with the Saint Marys AK schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive free or discounted training from a number of trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific 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 relationships with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Saint Marys AK schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Alaska, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at Alaska testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it’s important that the Saint Marys AK school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you’re having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to spend 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 fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement percentage 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 Saint Marys AK employers hiring their grads, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Saint Marys AK area vocational or trade 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 navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enrolling in a Truck Driving School near Saint Marys AK?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Saint Marys Alaska area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
St. Mary's, Alaska
St. Mary's (Negeqliq in Central Yup'ik) is a city in Kusilvak Census Area, Alaska, United States. The adjacent village of Andreafsky (historically known as Clear River) joined with St. Mary's in 1980. At the 2010 census the population was 507, up from 500 in 2000. By 2016, the population was estimated to be 550.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 50.2 square miles (130 km2), of which, 44.0 square miles (114 km2) of it is land and 6.3 square miles (16 km2) of it (12.47%) is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 500 people, 137 households, and 90 families residing in the city. The population density was 11.4 people per square mile (4.4/km²). There were 186 housing units at an average density of 4.2 per square mile (1.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 11.20% White, 87.20% Native American. 0.40% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Choose the Best CDL School Saint Marys AK
Selecting the right truck driver school is an essential first step to beginning your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. Most importantly, you must get the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may need to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent truck driver school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It’s your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Saint Marys AK.
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