How to Find the Right Trucking School near Unalaska Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Unalaska AK. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it’s essential to get the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain variables that you’ll want to consider before making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Unalaska residence. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based exclusively on price is not the best way to make certain you’ll obtain the right training. 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 goal in mind, just how do you decide on 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 talk a little bit about which commercial driver’s license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Unalaska AK, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 classes of licenses that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, 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 in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief descriptions for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive 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 specific types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Research a CDL School
When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the process of evaluating the Unalaska AK truck driving schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can’t be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other variables, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are a few more factors that you need to research while performing your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Unalaska AK area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, 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 certain advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real 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 training and curriculum will comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Unalaska AK schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school’s track record is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won’t provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn’t hurt to get in touch with the Alaska licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alaska and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it’s any greater, then students will not be receiving the individual attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time frame. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Unalaska AK schools offer training courses that run from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type 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 requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It’s also vital that the instructors stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best method is to check out the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher’s qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, a good trucking school will provide ample 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 ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Unalaska AK schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It’s possible to receive discounted or even free training from some truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Unalaska AK schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted 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 battling with graduates of other schools for test times at Alaska testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is only about one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it’s important that the Unalaska AK school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you’re having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to spend 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 responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? The moment you have acquired your commercial driver’s license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Unalaska AK employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Unalaska AK area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be completed.
Thinking of a Truck Drivier School near Unalaska AK?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Unalaska Alaska area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
Unalaska (Aleut: Iluulux̂, Russian: Уналашка) is the chief center of population in the Aleutian Islands. The city is in the Aleutians West Census Area, a regional component of the Unorganized Borough in the U.S. state of Alaska. Unalaska is located on Unalaska Island and neighboring Amaknak Island in the Aleutian Islands off mainland Alaska. The population was 4,376 at the 2010 census, which is 79% of the entire Aleutians West Census Area. Unalaska is the second largest city in the Unorganized Borough, behind Bethel.
The Aleut or Unangan people have lived on Unalaska Island for thousands of years. The Unangan, who were the first to inhabit the island of Unalaska, named it "Ounalashka", meaning "near the peninsula". The regional native corporation has adopted this moniker, and is known as the Ounalashka Corporation. The Russian fur trade reached Unalaska when Stepan Glotov and his crew arrived on August 1, 1759. Natives, Russians and their descendants comprised most of the community's population until the mid-20th century, when the involvement of the United States in World War II led to a large-scale influx of people and construction of buildings all along the strategically located Aleutians.
Almost all of the community's port facilities are on Amaknak Island, better known as Dutch Harbor or just "Dutch". It is the largest fisheries port in the U.S. by volume caught. It includes Dutch Harbor Naval Operating Base and Fort Mears, U.S. Army, a U.S. National Historic Landmark. Dutch Harbor lies within the city limits of Unalaska and is connected to Unalaska by a bridge. Amaknak Island is home to almost 59 percent of the city's population, although it has less than 3 percent of its land area.
Truck Driving Classes Unalaska AK
Selecting the appropriate truck driving school is an essential first step to launching your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver’s success. You originally came to our website because of your interest in Truck Driving Classes. However, you must get the necessary training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on cash or financing, you might want to consider 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 the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It’s your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will soon be part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Unalaska AK.
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If you do decide to attend a truck driving school outside the state of Alaska, be sure to read up on the rules and regulations for transferring your out of state CDL to the state of Alaska. You may have to simply fill out a few forms or you may have to retake the written test, the driving test, or both.
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