How to Choose a Truck Driving School near Fort Richardson Alaska
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Fort Richardson AK. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it’s essential to obtain the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several variables that you’ll want to consider before making your final selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Fort Richardson home. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the optimal means to make certain you’ll receive the appropriate education. Don’t forget, your goal is to learn 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 select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Require?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Fort Richardson AK, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The three license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and 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). Following are short explanations for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License 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. 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 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 CDLs may also require endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a Trucking School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Fort Richardson AK trucking schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can’t be stressed enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other issues, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So below are a few more factors that you should research while performing your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Fort Richardson AK area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more typical 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 recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given 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 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 assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Fort Richardson 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 job placement of its graduating students. If a school won’t share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to check with the Alaska licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alaska and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any higher, then students will not be receiving 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 teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Fort Richardson AK schools provide training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As already stated, it’s essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods 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 an instructor has the better. It’s also crucial that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal approach is to visit the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher’s qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a good trucking school will provide lots of 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. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time fluctuates among schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Fort Richardson AK schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It’s possible to obtain discounted or even free training from a number of truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining associations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Fort Richardson AK schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is available 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 other schools for test times at Alaska testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As earlier mentioned, truck driving training is just one to two months in length. With such a short duration, it’s important that the Fort Richardson AK school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you’re having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor 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 fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have obtained your commercial driver’s license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Fort Richardson AK employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Fort Richardson AK area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out 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 Fort Richardson AK?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Fort Richardson Alaska area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
Fort Richardson (Alaska)
Fort Richardson is a United States Army installation in the U.S. state of Alaska, adjacent to the city of Anchorage. In 2010, it was merged with nearby Elmendorf Air Force Base to form Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
Fort Richardson was named for the military pioneer explorer, Brig. Gen. Wilds P. Richardson, who served three tours of duty in the rugged Alaska territory between 1897 and 1917. Richardson, a native Texan and an 1884 West Point graduate, commanded troops along the Yukon River and supervised construction of Fort Egbert near Eagle, and Fort William H. Seward (Chilkoot Barracks) near Haines. As head of the War Department's Alaska Road Commission from 1905 to 1917, he was responsible for much of the surveying and building of early railroads, roads and bridges that helped the state’s settlement and growth. The Valdez-Fairbanks Trail, surveyed under his direction in 1904, was named the Richardson Highway in his honor.
During World War II, Fort Richardson was used briefly as a holding center for several family members of Alaskan Japanese Americans arrested after Pearl Harbor. Fifteen Japanese Americans and two German Americans were interned here before being transferred to other camps. Built during 1940-1941 on the site of what is now Elmendorf Air Force Base and established as the headquarters of the United States Army, Alaska (USARAK) in 1947, the post moved to its present location five miles (8 km) northeast of Anchorage in 1950. The post then had barracks for 500 soldiers, a rifle range, a few warehouses, a hospital, and bachelor officer quarters. From 1986-1994 the fort was headquarters of the 6th Infantry Division (Light). Fort Richardson is now headquarters for United States Army Alaska (USARAK), a subordinate unit of United States Army Pacific Command. For more than a decade, the major combat unit at Fort Richardson was Task Force 1-501, the only airborne infantry battalion in the Pacific Theater. Task Force 1-501 deployed to Afghanistan from October 2003 through August 2004.
Select the Right Truck Driving School Fort Richardson AK
Choosing the right trucking school is an important first step to beginning your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver’s success. But first and foremost, you must get the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It’s your choice. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Fort Richardson AK.
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