How to Select the Right Truck Driver School near Bella Vista Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Bella Vista AR. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have found that a career as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's important to get the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain variables that you'll need to consider before making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Bella Vista home. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal way to make sure you'll get the appropriate education. Just remember, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills 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 decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Bella Vista AR, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short descriptions of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 CDL is required to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of more 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 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 require endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Research a Trucking School
As soon as you have determined which CDL you want to pursue, you can start the undertaking of researching the Bella Vista AR trucking schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other factors, 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 prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Bella Vista AR area are accredited because of the demanding process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 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 indicator to help measure the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Bella Vista AR schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Arkansas licensing department to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Arkansas and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual attention 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 train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Bella Vista AR schools offer training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As already mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors may be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the best method is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driving school will provide plenty of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time varies among 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 find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Bella Vista AR schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Arkansas, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Arkansas testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As previously noted, CDL training is only about one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the Bella Vista AR school you choose offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Bella Vista AR employers recruiting their grads, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Bella Vista AR area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be completed.
Select the Right Bella Vista AR Truck Driver Training
Selecting the right truck driving school is an essential first step to beginning your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. However, you must get the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you might need to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving 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 choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Bella Vista AR.