How to Find the Best Truck Driving School near Hot Springs National Park Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Hot Springs National Park AR. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good income and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's important to receive the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are a number of factors that you'll want to examine prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you need to commute from your Hot Springs National Park home. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal means to ensure you'll receive the proper training. 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 target in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Hot Springs National Park AR, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will focus on Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes 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). Below are short summaries for the 2 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 more than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 more 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 CDLs might also need endorsements to drive 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 Research a Trucker School
When you have determined which CDL you would like to pursue, you can begin the process of researching the Hot Springs National Park AR truck driver schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other issues, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So below are some more factors that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Hot Springs National Park AR area are accredited due to the rigorous 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 obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual 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 meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Hot Springs National Park AR schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's track record is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Arkansas licensing department to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Arkansas and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors in the next section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personal attention 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 train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Hot Springs National Park AR schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As earlier mentioned, it's imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors may be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the best method is to check out the school and talk to the teachers 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.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driver school will furnish 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 operating a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Hot Springs National Park AR schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from some trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified 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 having associations 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 freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Hot Springs National Park AR schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Arkansas, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Arkansas testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier noted, truck driver training is only about one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the Hot Springs National Park AR school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? As soon as you have received your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Hot Springs National Park AR employers hiring their graduates, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Hot Springs National Park AR area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be submitted.
Enroll in the Best Hot Springs National Park AR Truck Driving Training
Selecting 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 taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you may need to consider 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 enroll in an independent truck driver school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Hot Springs National Park AR.