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How to Assess a CDL School
Once you have decided which CDL you would like to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the Cabot AR truck driving schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other variables, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are some additional factors that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Cabot AR area are accredited due to the rigorous process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, 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 several advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive 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 program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training 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 operation. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Cabot AR schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and employment 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 bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Arkansas licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Arkansas and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personal instruction they will need. This is especially 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 be a truck driver in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Cabot AR schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As already stated, it's essential that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors may be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driving school will furnish ample driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time varies between schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Cabot AR schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get free or discounted training from a number of trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having relationships with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Cabot AR schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Arkansas, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Arkansas testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As earlier noted, CDL training is only about one to two months long. With such a short duration, it's imperative that the Cabot AR school you select 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 commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Cabot AR employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Cabot AR area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.