How to Choose the Right Trucking School near Bella Vista Arkansas
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Bella Vista AR. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides good pay and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to get the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several factors that you'll want to think about prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Bella Vista home. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based solely on price is not the best way to ensure you'll receive the appropriate training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal 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 rest 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?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Bella Vista AR, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will discuss Class A and Class 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 for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more 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 required to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more 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, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Research a CDL School
Once you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Bella Vista AR trucking schools that you are considering. As already discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other factors, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So below are a few additional things that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Bella Vista AR area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more common and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help measure the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually 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 begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Arkansas licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Arkansas and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the individual instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that professes it can teach 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 takes time. Most Bella Vista AR schools provide training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As already stated, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to visit the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent trucking school will furnish sufficient driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time varies among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Bella Vista AR schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get discounted or even free training from certain truck driving schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining associations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff 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 opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Bella Vista AR schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Arkansas, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Arkansas testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is only about one to two months long. With such a brief term, it's important that the Bella Vista AR school you choose provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Bella Vista AR employers recruiting their grads, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driver 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 offered. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Select the Right Bella Vista AR Truck Driving Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driving school is an essential first step to launching your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. However, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on cash or financing, you might need to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or even 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 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 part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Bella Vista AR.