How to Choose a CDL Driving School near Douglas Alaska
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Douglas AK. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have found that a career as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it’s essential to get the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several variables that you’ll want to think about before making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you have to commute from your Douglas home. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the best means to make sure you’ll obtain the right education. Just remember, your goal 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 target in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Douglas AK, a driver 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 topic of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will focus on Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short summaries for 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 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 required to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of greater 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 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also require endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Assess a Truck Driving School
After you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Douglas AK truck driving schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can’t be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So below are several additional points that you need to research while performing your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Douglas AK area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 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 satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Douglas AK schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school’s history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won’t share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn’t hurt to get in touch with the Alaska licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alaska and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personal instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time frame. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Douglas AK schools offer training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As earlier stated, it’s essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also crucial that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the best method is to check out the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher’s qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, a good 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. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time varies between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Douglas AK schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive free or discounted training from certain truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Douglas AK schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. 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 battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alaska testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As previously noted, truck driver training is only about one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it’s imperative that the Douglas AK school you choose offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you’re having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you’re still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Provided? The moment you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Find out 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 employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Douglas AK employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Douglas AK area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enrolling in a Truck Driving School near Douglas AK?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Douglas Alaska area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
The only traditional school left on Douglas is Gastineau Elementary, which serves all the Douglas Island elementary-aged students; the Douglas Public Library is part of the Juneau Public Library System. Douglas has a few restaurants and bars (The Island Pub, Louie's Douglas Inn, and The Douglas Café), a local live theater (Perseverance Theater), and a gas station. The town’s population has dropped over the years but recently is up to about 3,000 people, or close to ten percent of the City and Borough of Juneau’s population. Douglas gets its water and electricity from Juneau and has a mix of onsite and municipal (diverted to Juneau) wastewater treatment.
Douglas Island was originally a border of the Auke people’s and Taku people’s territory. It was not usually used for year-round settlement, but rather as a place to spend the summer, or at times a place for battles.
In 1880 gold was discovered in Juneau, Alaska, across the narrow Gastineau Channel, drawing in all kinds of people looking to strike it rich. In 1881 two towns sprouted up on Douglas Island: Treadwell and Douglas. Treadwell was the community for the miners, with its own entertainment, pool, and bar. Douglas, too, had businesses popping up and soon had its own school and post office. A railroad and boardwalk connected the two towns. At this time the Treadwell power plant was large enough to power the entire Treadwell area, Douglas, and Juneau. The power plant continued to serve the Alaska-Juneau Gold Mine until the mine was shut down in 1944 by the War Department as non-essential to the war effort.
Choose the Right CDL School Douglas AK
Choosing the right truck driver school is a critical first step to beginning your new vocation as a long distance or local 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 available and understanding them is critical 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 lacking money or financing, you might want to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It’s your decision. But no matter how you get your training, you will in the near future be joining a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Douglas AK.
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