How to Pick the Best CDL Training School near Conway Arkansas
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Conway AR. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides good income and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to receive the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several factors that you'll want to consider prior to making your final selection. Location will certainly be important, especially if you need to commute from your Conway residence. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based only on price is not the optimal way to guarantee you'll receive the appropriate education. Just remember, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you select 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 discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Conway AR, an operator must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief descriptions of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more 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 needed to operate 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. Several 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 CDLs may also need endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School
When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Conway AR truck driver schools that you are considering. As already discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other issues, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are some additional points that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Conway AR area are accredited because of the rigorous process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive lots of driving time. For 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 curriculum and training will meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help measure the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Conway AR schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Arkansas licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Arkansas and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the personal instruction they will need. This is especially 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 relatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Conway AR schools offer training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As already mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors might be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driver school will provide lots 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 driving a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time differs between schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Conway AR schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive discounted or even free training from certain truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Conway AR schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Arkansas, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Arkansas testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's important that the Conway AR school you select offers 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 teacher should be willing to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. 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 obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Conway AR employers hiring their grads, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Conway AR area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.
Select the Best Conway AR Truck Driver Training
Selecting the ideal truck driving school is an important first step to launching your new occupation 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 available and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must get the necessary training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on cash or financing, you might need to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent CDL 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 choice. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Conway AR.