How to Pick the Best Truck Driver School near Fayetteville Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Fayetteville AR. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to get the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various factors that you'll need to examine prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Fayetteville residence. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the ideal way to make sure you'll receive the appropriate education. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge 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? That is what we are going to discuss in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Fayetteville AR, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short explanations for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater 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 operate single vehicles having a GVWR of greater 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 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 operate certain types of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Assess a Trucker School
When you have decided which CDL you want to pursue, you can start the process of researching the Fayetteville AR trucking schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other variables, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So below are several additional points that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Fayetteville AR area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more common and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get 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 comply with the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Fayetteville AR schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Arkansas licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Arkansas and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personalized attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Fayetteville AR schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As earlier stated, it's essential that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although 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 instructors stay current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method 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 completing the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driving school will provide plenty of 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 driving a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time differs between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Fayetteville AR schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from a number of truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining associations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Fayetteville AR schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Arkansas, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Arkansas testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As earlier noted, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief term, it's important that the Fayetteville AR school you choose offers 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 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 must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? The moment you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are contemplating have job placement 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 firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Fayetteville AR employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Fayetteville AR area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted.
Enroll in the Best Fayetteville AR Truck Driver Training
Choosing the right truck driver school is a critical first step to launching your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. However, you must receive the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on money or financing, you might want to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driver school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several associated 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 Fayetteville AR.