How to Choose the Right Truck Driving School near Conway Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Conway AR. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides good income and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's important to obtain the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various variables that you'll want to examine prior to making your final selection. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Conway residence. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal method to make sure you'll get the right education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified 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 discuss in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Conway AR, a driver must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and Class 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). Below are short descriptions for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL 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 required to drive 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 might also need endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a Trucking School
Once you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can start the process of researching the Conway AR trucking schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other variables, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So below are some more things that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Conway AR area are accredited due to the rigorous process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more typical and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's course is certified (the course, 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 determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. 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 top Conway AR schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Arkansas licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Arkansas and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the next section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the individual instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can train 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 professionally takes time. The majority of Conway AR schools provide training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As already stated, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors may be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best method is to visit the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also talk to some 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.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will provide plenty of driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential 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. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Conway AR schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from some trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is called 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 refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Conway AR schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Arkansas, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Arkansas testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As previously noted, CDL training is only about one to two months in length. With such a short term, it's important that the Conway AR school you choose provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? As soon as you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate 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 poor job placement rate or few Conway AR employers recruiting their grads, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Conway 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 assessing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Best Conway AR Truck Driver Training
Choosing the ideal truck driving school is an essential first step to beginning your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must get the proper training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driver school and have the option of driving 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 a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Conway AR.