Alaska is the last of America’s true wilderness. If you’ve ever wondered how incredible the scenery would be as you drive a truck through different areas of the state, you are not alone. Many a hiker, biker, trucker, and others have set out to tame the great Alaskan wilderness.
Oddly enough, the state of Alaska ranks last in number of truck drivers when compared to other states. Even Hawaii has more. Consequently, being a truck driver in Alaska has a very big perk – you can make great money since trucking jobs here pay some of the highest salaries in the U.S. Alaska’s annual mean salary for a truck driver is $53,480 and the mean hourly wage is $25.71 (SOURCE). Of course your actual salary could be more or less depending on the type of driving you do.
Still, when you compare the median salary of a truck driver in Alaska to truck drivers in the United States, the Alaska driver makes a good $10,000 more per year. Salaries can also differ depending on what part of the state you are in. The two most highly populated cities are Anchorage and Fairbanks and the mean salary in each of these cities is $53,100 and $48,300 respectively.
There are companies that pay drivers a signing bonus, while others may promise less time on the road and more time with the family or Monday through Friday work with weekends free. Some companies even pay for you to fly to Alaska to drive for several weeks and then fly you home. If you like to travel and you enjoy life on the road seeing terrain unlike anything you have at home, a job as a truck driver in Alaska could be just the spark you need to jumpstart or challenge your career.
The projected job growth for truck drivers in Alaska between 2014 and 2024 is 5% compared to the overall U.S. at 6% per O*NET.
Alaska CDL License Information and Insights
As in every state in the nation, to obtain a job as a driver in Alaska you need an Alaska Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). A CDL is required for several types of employment:
- operating large trucks or tractor trailers – more than 26,000 pounds
- driving passengers in a vehicle that can carry 16 or more
- transporting hazardous material
If you’re a beginning driver, before you can get a CDL, you have to earn a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) if you don’t already have one. When earning a CLP you will drive with a qualified trucker to learn the skills needed to operate a large vehicle safely and properly. You don’t have to learn by diving right in. There will be an experienced driver with you until you are ready to apply for your CDL.
To ensure you apply for the correct type of CLP and CDL, know the type and purpose of the vehicle(s) you’ll be driving and if you have interest in different jobs using different trucks. You could drive a tanker truck with fuel or other liquids, double and triple trailer, hazardous materials, interstate driver, and more. For these jobs that need additional skills, ensure you get the proper experience and license because often, these types of jobs pay more.
Two weeks after earning your CLP you can apply for your CDL. You will have to pass one or more knowledge tests and a road skills test. Be sure to bring all the paperwork necessary to receive your CDL. Visit the Alaska CDL government page to determine the correct paperwork you need.
If you already have a CDL from another state and are in Alaska temporarily for seasonal work, you need a valid CDL from your state of residence. For this type of job only, you do not need an Alaska Commercial Drivers License.
Drivers who have moved to Alaska must get their Alaska CDL license within 30 days. To transfer a current CDL from another state, you still need to apply for a CLP and a CDL. You may not have to take some of the knowledge and road skills tests, but be prepared just in case.
To transfer an expired CDL from another state, apply for a CLP and a CDL. You will probably be required to take all tests – knowledge and driving (SOURCE). The moral here is not to allow your license to expire.
Trucking Schools in Alaska
A very large transportation company in Alaska is called Lynden Transport. They have 16 subsidiaries, including trucking to and from Alaska, and even air cargo, and marine transport. They have been in business since 1954.
One of their subsidiaries, Alaska West Express, specializes in heavy hauls and hazmat loads. Lynden Training Center, a division of Alaska West Express, provides safety training for a variety of different career fields, including hazardous materials transport.
CDL License Training in Alaska
Choosing a truck driving school will have you considering many factors; The cost, the program length, the location, behind-the-wheel training, instructor-to-student ratios, and job placement assistance.
The costs in Alaska are in the range of $2500 to $4500. The program length depends your choice in full time or part time training. CDL schooling can last anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months depending on what you choose. Location is important. There are usually a good choice of schools in more populated areas or major cities. If you live in a rural area, you may be able to find a nearby school, or you may have to travel a little further to obtain your CDL training.
Behind-the-wheel training time is one of the most important aspects of your training. Choose a school that offers comprehensive training and allows you to get behind the wheel of a semi-truck and drive! Job placement assistance is a huge benefit and can give one school the upper hand over another if they don’t provide this service. Getting a good paying job with a great company is the goal, and if the school can facilitate that in any way, that is a big plus.
To no surprise, truck driving schools are not as abundant in the state of Alaska as in other states. There are a few great options, though, and these schools will give you the knowledge and training you need to operate a truck!
Alaska Trucking in the News
FAIRBANKS — Being a trucker is often in the blood. Danny Radcliffe is a trucker and so were his father and grandfather. Danny has been trucking for more than a decade working out of Fairbanks for the most part although he did work in the “Lower 48” for a while. In 2015, he won top honors in the Trucking Association’s Truck Driving Championships in Alaska. The Championships take several days and test truckers’ knowledge of the job, driving skills, and safety.
Trucking opened the world to Danny Radcliffe. His career has taken him through almost every state in the U.S. and now he has the pleasure of driving picturesque roads in Alaska daily. What he enjoys most about trucking, especially in Alaska, is the camaraderie between the drivers. (SOURCE)
Spotlight on Ice Road Trucking Jobs in Alaska
There is a trucking job in Alaska that is not available in many other states. It’s the Ice Road trucker; so popular that the History Channel has a show about it. But remember, it’s a show and the job is incredibly dangerous. You need many years of experience to be an ice road trucker. Alaska is cold, cold enough to freeze rivers, lakes, swamps, etc. Add to this the wind chill factor and the temperatures are downright deadly.
Temperatures this cold can cause mechanical issues with your truck, treacherous road conditions, and hypothermia for drivers. That’s not all. Think about accidents, white outs caused by blizzards, ice fractures, and avalanches.
All in a day’s work? Not if you don’t know what you’re doing. But for those drivers that have the experience, they can make crazy good money for the season (only two or three months) but before you think it’s all exciting and full of adrenalin, weigh the cost of death against a good paycheck. The average pay for the season is between $20,000 and $80,000. Some sources speculate more, lots more, but let’s be reasonable. There are not as many ice road trucking jobs as there are over-the-road and you won’t find one going to a conventional company either. It’s kind of an exclusive group so if you’re a newbie with no contacts in the industry it will be difficult to break in – but not impossible.
Even with the excellent pay, most drivers don’t return the next season so the turnover rate is astronomical – about 70%. Take into account the danger, the stress, and speeds of about 15 mph all day, every day, and this job is definitely not for everyone (SOURCE). It takes a special sort of adrenaline junkie for this job!