How to Decide on a CDL Training School near Sitka Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Sitka AK. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open road while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it’s essential to receive the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain variables that you’ll want to think about before making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Sitka home. The expense will also be of importance, but selecting a school based only on price is not the ideal method to make sure you’ll get the right training. Just remember, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge 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 choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Sitka AK, an operator must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The three classes of licenses that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will address 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). Below are brief summaries for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate 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 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 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 operate certain kinds of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a Trucking School
After you have decided which CDL you would like to obtain, you can start the process of assessing the Sitka AK trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can’t be stressed enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other factors, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So below are a few more points that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Sitka AK area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 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 Business? One clue to help measure the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Sitka AK schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school’s history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won’t supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the industry, 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 department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alaska and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any higher, then students will not be getting the personalized attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Sitka AK schools offer training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As earlier mentioned, it’s essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also crucial that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a little more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also speak with some of the students going through 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, an excellent trucking school will provide 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 simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time can vary among schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Sitka AK schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive free or discounted training from certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific 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 maintaining affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Sitka AK schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is available 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 of competing schools for test times at Alaska testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As earlier noted, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief duration, it’s imperative that the Sitka AK school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you’re having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you’re still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have acquired your commercial driver’s license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Sitka AK employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Sitka AK area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enrolling in a Truck Driving School near Sitka AK?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Sitka Alaska area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
The City and Borough of Sitka (Tlingit: Sheetʼká), formerly Novo-Arkhangelsk, or New Arkhangelsk under Russian rule (Russian: Ново-Архангельск or Новоaрхангельск, t Novoarkhangelsk), is a unified city-borough on Baranof Island and the south half of Chichagof Island in the Alexander Archipelago of the Pacific Ocean (part of the Alaska Panhandle), in the U.S. state of Alaska. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 8,881.
In terms of land area, it is the largest city-borough in the U.S., with a land area of 2,870.3 square miles (7,434 square kilometres) and a total area (including water area) of 4,811.4 square miles (12,461 square kilometres). Urban Sitka, the part usually thought of as the "city" of Sitka, is on the west side of Baranof Island.
The current name Sitka (derived from Sheet’ká, a contraction of the Tlingit Shee At'iká) means "People on the Outside of Baranof Island," whose Tlingit name is Sheet’-ká X'áat'l (here contracted to Shee).
Pick the Right Trucking School Sitka AK
Choosing the right truck driving school is an important first step to beginning your new occupation 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 several options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver’s success. Most importantly, you must get the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent truck driver school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It’s your choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Sitka AK.
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