How to Decide on a Truck Driver School near Skagway Alaska
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Skagway AK. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible work prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it’s important to obtain the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various variables that you’ll want to examine prior to making your final selection. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Skagway residence. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the best method to make certain you’ll get the right education. Don’t forget, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Will You Require?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Skagway AK, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The three license classes that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and Class 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). Following are brief summaries for the two 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 greater than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 needed 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. Several 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 need endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a Truck Driver School
When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Skagway AK trucking schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can’t be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other factors, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So below are some additional factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driving schools in the Skagway AK area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more typical 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. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given lots of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 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 fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Skagway AK schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school’s track record is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won’t provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to an excellent 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 confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it’s any higher, 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 claims it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Skagway AK schools provide training courses that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As earlier mentioned, it’s important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also vital that the instructors stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to visit the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also speak with 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.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driving school will provide lots of driving time to its students. Besides, isn’t that what it’s all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time varies between schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Skagway AK schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It’s possible to receive free or discounted training from certain truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Skagway AK schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alaska, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alaska testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As earlier noted, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it’s important that the Skagway AK school you select provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you’re having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you’re still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have received your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Skagway AK employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Skagway 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 examining have a financial aid 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 Skagway AK?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Skagway Alaska area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
The Municipality and Borough of Skagway is a first-class borough in Alaska on the Alaska Panhandle. As of the 2010 census, the population was 968. Estimates put the 2015 population at 1,057 people. The population doubles in the summer tourist season in order to deal with more than 900,000 visitors. Incorporated as a borough on June 25, 2007, it was previously a city (urban Skagway located at 59°27′30″N 135°18′50″W / 59.45833°N 135.31389°W / 59.45833; -135.31389) in the Skagway-Yakutat-Angoon Census Area (now the Hoonah–Angoon Census Area).
The port of Skagway is a popular stop for cruise ships, and the tourist trade is a big part of the business of Skagway. The White Pass and Yukon Route narrow gauge railroad, part of the area's mining past, is now in operation purely for the tourist trade and runs throughout the summer months. Skagway is also part of the setting for Jack London's book The Call of the Wild, Will Hobbs's book Jason's Gold, and for Joe Haldeman's novel, Guardian. The John Wayne film North to Alaska (1960) was filmed nearby.
The name Skagway is derived from shԍagéi, a Tlingit idiom which figuratively refers to rough seas in the Taiya Inlet, which are caused by strong north winds. (See, "Etymology and the Mythical Stone Woman", below.)
Select the Ideal CDL School Skagway AK
Selecting the ideal truck driving school is a critical first step to launching your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that forge 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 receive the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking 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 choose an independent truck driver 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 regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Skagway AK.
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