How to Decide on a CDL Driving School near Soldotna Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Soldotna AK. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it’s essential to get the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various factors that you’ll want to consider prior to making your final selection. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Soldotna residence. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the best means to make certain you’ll get the proper education. Don’t forget, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target 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 remainder of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver’s license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles legally in Alaska and within the United States, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The three classes of licenses that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driver school near Soldotna AK, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short explanations for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed 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 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 needed to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Several 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 may also require endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Assess a Truck Driver School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can start the process of assessing the Soldotna AK trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary concerns. But it can’t be emphasized enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other issues, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are some more points that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few Soldotna AK truck driver schools are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, 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 several advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get lots of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 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 curriculum and training will meet 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 negatively reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Soldotna AK schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school’s history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won’t share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to contact the Alaska licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the next section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any greater, then students will not be receiving the personalized attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that claims it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Soldotna AK schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As already mentioned, it’s important that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It’s also vital that the teachers keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a little more subjective than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to check out the Soldotna AK school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also talk to some 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.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driving 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. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time varies among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Soldotna AK schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive discounted or even free training from some Soldotna AK trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is what’s known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having associations with numerous 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 have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alaska, ask if the Soldotna AK schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alaska testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As previously noted, truck driver training is only about one to two months long. With such a short term, it’s imperative that the Soldotna AK school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you’re having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you’re still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have received your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to start your new profession in Soldotna AK. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other technical or vocational 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 least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted in Soldotna AK.
Why Did You Want to Become a Trucker?When prepping to interview for a Trucking position, it's advantageous to reflect on questions you may be asked. One of the things that interviewers often ask truck driving candidates is "What made you pick trucking as a career?". What the interviewer is attempting to learn is not only the private reasons you might have for being a trucker, but additionally what characteristics and skills you have that make you exceptional at what you do. You will undoubtedly be asked questions pertaining specifically to trucking, along with a certain number of routine interview questions, so you must ready a number of approaches about how you would like to answer them. Given that there are several factors that go into choosing a career, you can respond to this fundamental question in a multitude of ways. When preparing an answer, attempt to include the reasons the work interests you in addition to the strengths you have that make you an excellent truck driver and the leading choice for the position. Don't try to memorize an answer, but jot down some ideas and topics that pertain to your own experiences and strengths. Reviewing sample responses can help you to develop your own thoughts, and give you ideas of what to discuss to enthuse the recruiter.
Select the Right Truck Driver School Soldotna AK
Picking the appropriate truck driving school is a critical first step to starting your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver’s success. Most importantly, you must get the necessary training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It’s your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Soldotna AK.
A Bit About Soldotna Alaska
Soldotna is located in the Southcentral portion of Alaska on the central-western portion of the Kenai Peninsula. The city limits span 7 square miles along the Kenai River, which empties into the Cook Inlet in the nearby city of Kenai. The Kenai River was selected by CNN Travel as one of the "World's 15 Best Rivers for Travelers," due to its fishing and hunting opportunities. Soldotna is located on the western edge of the vast Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, a protected area spanning nearly 2 million acres and home to bears, moose, caribou, sheep, and many fish and bird species.
The city is located at the junction of the Sterling Highway and the Kenai Spur Highway, which has enabled Soldotna to develop as a service and retail hub for the Central Peninsula as well as for travelers between Anchorage and Homer. The Central Peninsula Hospital serves the medical needs of the region's residents and tourists. The Kenai Peninsula College, a branch of the University of Alaska Anchorage, operates the Kenai River Campus in Soldotna. Additionally, the headquarters of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, the Kenai Peninsula Borough, and the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District are located in the city.
In 1947, after World War II, the United States government withdrew a number of townships along Cook Inlet and the lower Kenai River from the Kenai National Moose Range, opening up the area to settlement under the Homestead Act. Veterans of the United States armed services were given a 90-day preference over non-veterans in selecting land and filing for property. Also in that year, the Sterling Highway right-of-way was cleared of trees from Cooper Landing to Kenai. The location of present-day Soldotna was selected as the site for the highway's bridge crossing the Kenai River.
The construction of the Sterling Highway provided a link from the Soldotna area to the outside world. More homesteads were taken and visitors came to fish in the area. The Soldotna Post Office opened in 1949 and other businesses opened in the next few years.
More Cities of Interest in Alaska