How to Pick a Truck Driving School near Palmer Alaska
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Palmer AK. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible work prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it’s imperative to obtain the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain variables that you’ll need to examine before making your final selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Palmer home. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based only on price is not the ideal way to guarantee you’ll get the appropriate education. Don’t forget, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally in Alaska and within the USA, a driver needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The three license classes that a person 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 near Palmer AK, we will address Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate 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. 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 may also require endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a Truck Driver School
As soon as you have determined which CDL you want to obtain, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Palmer AK trucking schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary concerns. But it can’t be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other factors, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So following are several more things that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few Palmer AK truck driver schools are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, 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 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 actual driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. 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 Business? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly ranked 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 Palmer AK schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school’s track record is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won’t supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn’t hurt to get in touch with the Alaska licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alaska and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any higher, then students will not be receiving the personal 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 professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time frame. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Palmer AK schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As already mentioned, it’s important that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It’s also important that the instructors stay current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors may be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to check out the Palmer AK school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also talk to 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? Above all else, a good truck driving school will furnish sufficient 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. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time can vary among schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Palmer AK schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It’s possible to obtain free or discounted training from certain Palmer AK trucking schools if you enter into an agreement 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 offer it are called captives. So rather than having associations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just remember to ask if the schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Alaska, find out if the Palmer AK schools you are looking at 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 facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As previously noted, truck driving training is just one to two months long. With such a short term, it’s essential that the Palmer AK school you choose offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you’re having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you’re still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have obtained your commercial driver’s license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to begin your new career in Palmer AK. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few employers hiring their grads, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed in Palmer AK.
Why Did You Want to Be a Truck Driver?When prepping to interview for a Trucking job, it's a good idea to review questions you may be asked. Among the things that interviewers frequently ask truck driving prospects is "What made you select trucking as a career?". What the interviewer is attempting to learn is not only the private reasons you might have for becoming a trucking operator, but also what attributes and talents you have that make you outstanding at what you do. You will undoubtedly be asked questions relating exclusively to trucking, along with a significant number of general interview questions, so you must organize a number of ideas about how you want to answer them. Because there are numerous variables that go into selecting a career, you can address this primary question in a number of ways. When readying an answer, aim to include the reasons the profession appeals to you along with the talents you possess that make you an excellent truck driver and the leading choice for the position. Don't make an effort to memorize a response, but write down some concepts and anecdotes that relate to your own experiences and strengths. Reviewing sample answers can assist you to develop your own concepts, and inspire ideas of what to include to impress the interviewer.
Choose the Ideal Truck Driving School Palmer AK
Picking the right trucking school is an essential first step to starting your new occupation 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 offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. Most importantly, you must receive the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on money or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several associated 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 Palmer AK.
A Bit About Palmer Alaska
Palmer is a city in and the borough seat of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough in the U.S. state of Alaska. It is part of the Anchorage Metropolitan Statistical Area. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city is 5,937.
The first people to live in the Matanuska Valley, where Palmer is located, were the Dena'ina and Ahtna Athabaskans. They moved throughout the area, living a subsistence lifestyle and trading with other native groups. Their trade routes were along the Matanuska River. Russians came to Alaska in 1741 and brought the Russian Orthodox religious tradition to the indigenous peoples of the region. In the early 1890s, an entrepreneur named George W. Palmer built a trading post on the Matanuska River, near present-day Palmer. The town was later named after Palmer.
In the late 19th century, the U.S. government began to take interest in the Matanuska coal fields located north of Palmer. This interest sparked financiers to consider constructing the Alaska Central Railroad in 1904. The advent of World War I created a need for high quality coal to fuel U.S. battleships, and by 1917 the US Navy had constructed rail from the port of Seward to the Chickaloon coal deposits. At the end of World War I, the U.S. Navy distributed land in the coal fields to war veterans and additional land was opened to homesteading. Farmers, miners and homesteaders began to populate the area. The Palmer Post Office was opened July 6, 1917 under the name of Warton. With railroad accessibility, new markets for agriculture began to open up for farmers in the Matanuska Valley.
In one year, Palmer transformed from a mere whistle stop rail siding to a planned community with modern utilities and community services. Eleven million dollars from Federal Emergency Relief Administration was spent to create the town of Palmer and relocate 203 families from the hard hit Iron Range region of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Families traveled by train and ship to Palmer, arriving in May 1935. Upon their arrival they were housed in a tent city during their first Alaskan summer. Each family drew lots for 40-acre (160,000 m2) tracts and their farming adventure began in earnest. The failure rate was high, but many of their descendants still live in the area and there are still many operating farms in the Palmer area, including the Vanderwheele and Wolverine farms. In 1971, the National Outdoor Leadership School started operating wilderness education courses in the nearby Talkeetna and Chugach mountain ranges from a local historic farmhouse, the Berry House, which is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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