How to Choose a CDL Training School near Fairbanks Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Fairbanks AK. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible work opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it’s essential to obtain the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various variables that you’ll need to think about prior to making your final selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Fairbanks residence. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the ideal way to ensure you’ll get the proper training. Don’t forget, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified 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 rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver’s license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Fairbanks AK, a driver needs to 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 subject of this article is how to choose 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 in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief explanations for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more 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 operate 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. Some 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also require endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Research a Truck Driver School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you wish to obtain, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Fairbanks AK truck driving schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can’t be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are a few additional points that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the Fairbanks AK area are accredited due to the rigorous process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real 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 satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help determine 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. Having said that, even the top Fairbanks AK schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also find out what the school’s history is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won’t provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to check with the Alaska licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alaska and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the following section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher 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 professes it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Fairbanks AK schools provide training programs that run from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As previously mentioned, it’s imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It’s also crucial that the instructors keep 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 standards, and possibly the ideal method is to check out the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher’s qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driving 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 operating a truck. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time varies between schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Fairbanks 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 certain trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with many different 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 surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Fairbanks AK schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alaska, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alaska testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As formerly noted, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief duration, it’s essential that the Fairbanks AK school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you’re having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you’re still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Provided? The moment you have attained your commercial driver’s license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Fairbanks AK employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Fairbanks AK area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Enrolling in a Truck Driving School near Fairbanks AK?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Fairbanks Alaska area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
Fairbanks is the largest city in the Interior region of Alaska. 2016 estimates put the population of the city proper at 32,751, and the population of the Fairbanks North Star Borough at 97,121, making it the second most populous metropolitan area in Alaska (after Anchorage). The Metropolitan Statistical Area encompasses all of the Fairbanks North Star Borough and is the northernmost Metropolitan Statistical Area in the United States, located 196 driving miles (or 140 air miles) south of the Arctic Circle. Fairbanks is home to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the founding campus of the University of Alaska system.
Though, as of yet, there is not a known permanent Alaska Native settlement at the site of Fairbanks, Athabascan peoples have used the area for thousands of years. An archaeological site excavated on the grounds of the University of Alaska Fairbanks uncovered a Native camp about 3,500 years old, with older remains found at deeper levels. From evidence gathered at the site, archaeologists surmise that Native activities in the area were limited to seasonal hunting and fishing as fridge temperatures precluded berry gathering . In addition, archeological sites on the grounds of nearby Fort Wainwright date back well over 10,000 years. Arrowheads excavated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks site matched similar items found in Asia, providing some of the first evidence that humans arrived in North America via the Bering Strait land bridge in deep antiquity.
Captain E. T. Barnette founded Fairbanks in August 1901 while headed to Tanacross (or Tanana Crossing, where the Valdez–Eagle trail crossed the Tanana River), where he intended to set up a trading post. The steamboat on which Barnette was a passenger, the Lavelle Young, ran aground while attempting to negotiate shallow water. Barnette, along with his party and supplies, were deposited along the banks of the Chena River 7 miles (11 km) upstream from its confluence with the Tanana River. The sight of smoke from the steamer's engines caught the attention of gold prospectors working in the hills to the north, most notably an Italian immigrant named Felice Pedroni (better known as Felix Pedro) and his partner Tom Gilmore. The two met Barnette where he disembarked and convinced him of the potential of the area. Barnette set up his trading post at the site, still intending to eventually make it to Tanacross. Teams of gold prospectors soon congregated in and around the newly founded Fairbanks; they built drift mines, dredges, and lode mines in addition to panning and sluicing.
Select the Right Truck Driver School Fairbanks AK
Selecting the ideal trucking 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 mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. Most importantly, you must receive the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on cash or financing, you might want to consider 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 enroll in an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It’s your decision. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Fairbanks AK.
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