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. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's important to obtain the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several factors that you'll want to consider before making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Bentonville residence. The expense will also be of importance, but selecting a school based only on price is not the optimal means to ensure you'll obtain the proper education. Don't forget, 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 purpose in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Bentonville AR, a driver must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a driver can qualify 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 distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief descriptions of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL 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. 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also require endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Assess a Trucker School
When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can start the undertaking of researching the Bentonville AR trucking schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other issues, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are several more factors that you should research while conducting your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Bentonville AR area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will satisfy the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Bentonville AR schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Arkansas licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Arkansas and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the next section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the individual 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 professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Bentonville 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 Instructors? As already mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, 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 intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best method is to check out the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driving school will furnish 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 operating a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time differs among schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Bentonville AR schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain free or discounted training from certain truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships 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 giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Bentonville AR schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Arkansas, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates of other schools for test times at Arkansas testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As formerly mentioned, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Bentonville AR school you select provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have attained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Bentonville AR employers recruiting their grads, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Bentonville AR area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Right Bentonville AR CDL Training
Picking the appropriate truck driver school is an important first step to beginning your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must receive the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might want to think about 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 select an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be joining a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Bentonville AR.