How to Find the Best Trucking School near Bentonville Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Bentonville AR. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to receive the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of variables that you'll need to consider prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Bentonville residence. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based only on price is not the ideal way to ensure you'll receive the right education. 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 objective in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Bentonville AR, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What differentiates 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 brief explanations for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater 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 required to drive 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. 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 may also need endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a CDL School
When you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can begin the process of evaluating the Bentonville AR trucking schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So following are some additional factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Bentonville AR area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get an ample amount 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 program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driving 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 Bentonville AR schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. 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 share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Arkansas licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Arkansas and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the following section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting 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 comparatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Bentonville AR schools offer training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As earlier mentioned, it's essential that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although 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 important that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the best method is to check out the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also speak with some 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.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driving school will furnish ample 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 operating a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time can vary among schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Bentonville AR schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get discounted or even free training from certain trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to 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 less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Bentonville AR schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Arkansas, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Arkansas testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As previously noted, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's important that the Bentonville AR school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor 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? Once you have received your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession. 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 grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Bentonville AR employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Bentonville AR area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Best Bentonville AR CDL Training
Picking the right truck driver school is an essential first step to launching your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. However, you must receive the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on cash or financing, you may need to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases 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 several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Bentonville AR.