Commercial Driver Education in Alaska
Living in Alaska means living in the United States' largest state. This means you have a lot of ground to cover when it comes to exploring all of the natural beauty that AK has to offer. What better way to do this than by driving a commercial vehicle? You'll spend your workdays traveling and sightseeing, becoming a real conqueror of “the Last Frontier."
First, you will need to apply for an Alaska commercial driver's license (CDL). Alaska's Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) oversees the processes for getting your CDL.
The DMV requires that you pass a series of tests in order to prove your knowledge of commercial vehicle safety and driving skills. A great way to prepare for the DMV's required commercial driver exams is to enroll in CDL education.
Certain CDL applicants are state-required to enroll in such education. Read on for details on CDL Driver's Ed requirements in Alaska.
IMPORTANT FEDERAL TRAINING REQUIREMENTS UPDATE
Per new federal entry-level driver training requirements effective February 7, 2022, the Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles now mandates new CDL applicants complete an entry-level driver training course through an authorized provider. You’ll need to complete this training prior to applying for your first commercial driver’s license, upgrading your existing CDL class, or applying for a HAZMAT, school bus, or passenger endorsement.
Alaska CDL Ed Requirements
The Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles requires CDL applicants who want a school bus (S) endorsement to enroll in commercial driver training. You must complete a school bus training course that's been approved by the Department of Education (DOE).
You can contact your local DMV office for more information on school bus training courses.
Conversely, if you're not applying for a school bus endorsement, commercial driver education classes are currently optional, though they will become mandatory February 7, 2022. You should still consider enrolling in CDL education, as doing so will prepare you for the DMV's required CDL tests.
All CDL applicants in Alaska are required to take the following exams:
- Written general knowledge test.
- Skills performance road test.
Depending on the classification and endorsement(s) attached to your desired commercial driver's license, you could be required to take additional written and road exams. Refer to the following guides if you're unsure about the classification and endorsement(s) on your prospective CDL.
Alaska CDL Written & Road Test Prep
Enrolling in an Alaska CDL Driver's Ed course is the best way to prepare for the AK Division of Motor Vehicles' written and road tests.
For future school bus drivers, this is mandatory. For all other CDL applicants, you are not state-required to take commercial driver education—but you should strongly consider doing so.
Taking classroom CDL courses will prepare you for the format and material of the written CDL exam(s). Enrolling in a behind-the-wheel CDL training program will prepare you for the commercial driver road test(s).
The primary questions to ask when selecting in-class and/or behind-the-wheel CDL classes should include:
- Do the course length and tuition fit into your budget and schedule?
- Are the classes taught by instructors who hold valid commercial driver's licenses?
- Does the program curriculum cover all of the topics and skills you'll be required to know for your specific CDL testing?
In-Class CDL Driver's Ed Curriculum
While looking at classroom CDL courses for an Alaska commercial driver's license, make sure that the materials cover all of the topics that apply to the CDL you're testing for.
The material that you'll need to know for the written general knowledge exam includes subjects like:
- Steps for proper vehicle inspection.
- Performing basic vehicle maneuvers (e.g. accelerating and braking).
- Controlling vehicle speed on difficult roads.
- Driving in hazardous conditions like:
- Heavy traffic.
- Knowing the dangers of distracted and impaired driving.
- Taking control of emergency situations.
Additional Written CDL Tests
As mentioned before, the Alaska DMV could require you to take additional written CDL exams if the classification and endorsement(s) on your desired commercial driver's license calls for it.
The other written tests you could be expected to pass are:
- Passenger transport.
- Using air brakes.
- Combination vehicles.
- Transporting hazardous materials.
- For more on HAZMAT endorsements, visit our guide page.
- Liquid or gas-filled tankers.
- Double or triple trailers.
- School bus operation.
When you feel ready to take your CDL written exam(s), contact your local AK DMV office to make a testing appointment.
Behind-the-Wheel CDL Courses
When you pass the commercial driver written test(s), the Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles will give you a commercial learner's permit (CLP).
The state requires that you hold onto your CLP for at least 14 days before testing for your commercial driver's license.
So, in the meantime, consider enrolling in a behind-the-wheel CDL course.
The behind-the-wheel program that you choose should have a curriculum that covers all of the skills you'll need to know for the general skills performance road test, including:
- Internal and external vehicle inspection.
- Performing basic skills (e.g. reversing and parallel parking).
- Entering and exiting the flow of moving traffic.
- Proceeding through intersections.
- Shifting gears correctly.
Additional CDL Road Tests
Just like the DMV's written CDL testing, you might need to learn additional material for your road exam, depending on the classification and endorsement(s) on your desired CDL.
Other skills that you might have to learn include pre-trip vehicle inspections for:
- School buses.
- Vehicles with trailers.
- Public and private transit buses.
When you feel comfortable behind the wheel of your commercial vehicle, schedule an appointment with the Alaska DMV for your CDL road test.
Self-Study Guide for an AK CDL
If you aren't applying to drive a school bus in Alaska, you always have the option of studying for the DMV's CDL exams on your own.
All that you need to know for the CDL written and road testing is in the Alaska Commercial Driver License Manual, including a chart that indicates exactly which sections you need to study for your particular commercial driver's license.
For your written test prep, make sure that you cover every section that applies to your CDL and its respective classification and endorsement(s).
For your road test preparation, just make sure that you're practicing with someone who is considered a qualified driver, meaning they:
- Hold a valid CDL.
- Have had their CDL for at least 1 year.
- Are 21 years old or older.
As an added study tool, consider taking CDL practice tests, which can help to familiarize you with the format and material you'll be facing on the written and road CDL exams. These tests give you feedback in real-time and allow you to experience the CDL test structure from the comfort of home, alleviating any pre-exam jitters you may have on test day. Additionally, they will point out the areas where you need more studying, giving you a better chance of passing on your first attempt.