How to Enroll in the Best Truck Driving Classes near Hot Springs National Park Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Hot Springs National Park AR. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible work opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of factors that you'll need to examine prior to making your final selection. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Hot Springs National Park home. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based only on price is not the ideal way to guarantee you'll get the appropriate education. Just remember, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That 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 commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Is Required?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Hot Springs National Park AR, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind 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 descriptions 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 greater than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 CDL 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. 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 require endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a CDL School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the process of evaluating the Hot Springs National Park AR trucking schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other variables, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are some more points that you should 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 trucking schools in the Hot Springs National Park AR area are accredited due to the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get lots of driving time. For 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 training and curriculum will meet the very high standards 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 poorly rated or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Hot Springs National Park AR schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Arkansas licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Arkansas and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personal attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Hot Springs National Park AR schools provide training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As earlier mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, 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 regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors may be a little more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the best method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driving school will furnish 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 operating a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time varies between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Hot Springs National Park AR schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from some truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Hot Springs National Park 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 permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Arkansas, ask if the schools you are looking at 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 facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As previously mentioned, truck driving training is only about one to two months long. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Hot Springs National Park AR school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher 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 fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Ask 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 referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Hot Springs National Park AR employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Hot Springs National Park AR area trade or technical 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 aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Best Hot Springs National Park AR CDL Driver Training
Picking the ideal truck driving school is an essential first step to beginning your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must get the necessary training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may want to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Hot Springs National Park AR.