How to Decide on the Right CDL Driving Classes near Bella Vista Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Bella Vista AR. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several factors that you'll need to consider prior to making your final choice. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Bella Vista home. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based solely on price is not the best method to guarantee you'll receive the appropriate training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Bella Vista AR, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that one 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, we will address Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes 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 brief summaries of the two 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 more than 10,000 lbs. Several 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. Several 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also need endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Assess a CDL School
When you have determined which CDL you want to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of researching the Bella Vista AR trucking schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other variables, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are several more points that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Bella Vista AR area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 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 fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Bella Vista AR schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Arkansas licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Arkansas and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the teachers in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personal instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that professes it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Bella Vista AR schools provide training courses that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As previously stated, it's important that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal approach is to check out the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver school will furnish ample driving time to its students. Besides, 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 important training methods, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Bella Vista AR schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive free or discounted training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having associations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Bella Vista AR schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Arkansas, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Arkansas testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is only about one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Bella Vista AR school you select offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Bella Vista AR employers hiring their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Bella Vista AR area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Right Bella Vista AR Truck Driving Training
Picking the appropriate truck driving school is an important first step to launching your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, you must obtain the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might want 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 trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, 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 entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Bella Vista AR.