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How to Research a Trucking School
Once you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the undertaking of researching the Benton AR truck driver schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other variables, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are a few additional things that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially 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 demanding 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 obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real 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 training and curriculum will meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated 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 best of Benton AR schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Arkansas licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Arkansas and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personalized attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that claims it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Benton AR schools offer training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As earlier mentioned, it's imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors keep current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to check out the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to 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.
Plenty of 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 driving a truck. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time differs between schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. 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 looking at and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get free or discounted training from certain truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having relationships 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 giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Benton AR schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Arkansas, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Arkansas testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As formerly mentioned, truck driver training is only about one to two months long. With such a short term, 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 particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to devote more time with you until you are proficient. 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 responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Benton AR employers hiring their grads, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Benton AR area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be completed.