How to Decide on a CDL Training School near Kenai Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Kenai AK. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it’s essential to receive the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several variables that you’ll want to think about prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Kenai home. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based solely on price is not the ideal means to ensure you’ll obtain the appropriate training. 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 purpose in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Kenai AK, a driver must get a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The three license classes that a driver can qualify 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 address Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind 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 descriptions for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 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. A few 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 might also need endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Assess a Trucking School
As soon as you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the Kenai AK trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial concerns. But it can’t be emphasized enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other issues, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So below are several additional points that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Kenai AK area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common 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. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive 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 training and curriculum will satisfy the very high standards 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 poorly ranked or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Kenai AK schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school’s track record is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won’t share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alaska licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alaska and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the teachers in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any higher, then students will not be getting the individual instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that claims it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Kenai AK schools offer training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As earlier mentioned, it’s essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods 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 successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also vital that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a little more subjective than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to visit the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher’s qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driving school will provide sufficient driving time to its students. Besides, isn’t that what it’s all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time differs among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Kenai AK schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from a number of trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Kenai AK schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Alaska, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alaska testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As previously noted, truck driver training is only about one to two months long. With such a brief term, it’s important that the Kenai AK school you select provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you’re having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you’re still working while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? The moment you have acquired your commercial driver’s license after graduating from truck driver 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 national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Kenai AK employers recruiting their grads, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Kenai AK area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Enrolling in a Truck Driving School near Kenai AK?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Kenai Alaska area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
Kenai (/ˈkiːnaɪ/, KEY-nigh) (Dena'ina: Shk'ituk't) is a city in the Kenai Peninsula Borough in the U.S. state of Alaska. The population was 7,100 as of the 2010 census, up from 6,942 in 2000.
The city of Kenai is named after the local Dena'ina (Tanaina) word 'ken' or 'kena', which means 'flat, meadow, open area with few trees; base, low ridge', according to the Dena'ina Topical Dictionary by James Kari, Ph.D., published in 2007. This describes the area along the mouth and portion of the Kenai River near the City of Kenai. Archaeological evidence suggests that the area was first occupied by the Kachemak people from 1000 B.C., until they were displaced by the Dena'ina Athabaskan people around 1000 A.D. Before the arrival of the Russians, Kenai was a Dena'ina village called Shk'ituk't, meaning "where we slide down." When Russian fur traders first arrived in 1741, about 1,000 Dena'ina lived in the village. The traders called the people "Kenaitze", which is a Russian term for "people of the flats", or "Kenai people". This name was later adopted when they were incorporated as the Kenaitze Indian Tribe in the early 1970s.
In 1786 Pytor Zaikov built Fort Nikolaevskaia for the Lebedev-Lastochkin Company on the site of modern Kenai, being the first European settlement on the Alaskan mainland. Hostilities surfaced between the natives and settlers in 1797, culminating in an incident in which the Dena'ina attacked Fort St. Nicholas, later dubbed the battle of Kenai. Over one hundred deaths occurred from all involved parties. Later, in 1838, the introduction of smallpox killed one half of the Dena'ina population.
Select the Right Trucking School Kenai AK
Picking the appropriate truck driving school is an essential 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 several options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver’s success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may want to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It’s your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Kenai AK.
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