How to Select the Right CDL Training Classes near Benton Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Benton AR. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to receive the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various variables that you'll need to examine before making your final selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Benton home. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the best means to guarantee you'll obtain the proper education. Just remember, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Benton AR, a driver must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief summaries for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to drive 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 CDL is needed to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of greater 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 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 require endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Research a Truck Driver School
As soon as you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can begin the process of assessing the Benton AR truck driving schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other issues, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So following are a few more factors 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 trucking schools in the Benton AR area are accredited due to the rigorous process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more typical and is offered 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 quality, and that they will get lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 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 fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Benton AR schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is concerning 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 numerous contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Arkansas licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Arkansas and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personal attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Benton AR schools provide training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As earlier stated, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and possibly the best method is to check out the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent 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. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time differs between schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Benton AR schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined time period. 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 work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Benton AR schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed 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 battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Arkansas testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As earlier noted, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Benton AR school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. 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 Placement Offered? The moment you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Benton AR employers recruiting their grads, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Benton AR area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Best Benton AR CDL Training
Picking the ideal truck driving school is an essential 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 mold a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. However, you must get the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might need to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower 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 the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Benton AR.