How to Pick the Best Trucking Classes near Bella Vista Arkansas
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Bella Vista AR. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's important to receive the proper training by choosing 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 selection. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you have to commute from your Bella Vista home. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the optimal method to ensure you'll obtain the proper training. Just remember, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Is Required?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Bella Vista AR, a driver must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type 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 of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required 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 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. Some 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 might also need endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Research a Trucking School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can begin the process of evaluating the Bella Vista AR trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other variables, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So following are some additional factors that you should research while performing your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the Bella Vista AR area are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more typical and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 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 satisfy the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help measure the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Bella Vista AR schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Arkansas licensing department to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Arkansas and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the individual attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning 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 period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Bella Vista AR schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As already stated, it's essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to visit the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driving school will provide sufficient driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training tools, they are no substitute for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time can vary among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Bella Vista AR schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from some trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Bella Vista AR schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Arkansas, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates of other schools for test times at Arkansas testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As previously mentioned, truck driving training is just one to two months in length. With such a short duration, it's imperative that the Bella Vista AR school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Bella Vista AR employers recruiting their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Bella Vista AR area trade or technical 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.
Enroll in the Best Bella Vista AR Truck Driver Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driver school is a critical first step to starting your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must receive the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you might need to think about 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 enroll in an independent truck driver school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Bella Vista AR.