How to Pick the Right Truck Driver School 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. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to get the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several variables that you'll want to consider prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Hot Springs National Park residence. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the optimal way to make certain you'll receive the proper training. Don't forget, your objective 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 objective in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Hot Springs National Park AR, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic 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 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 summaries of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License 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. Several of the vehicles that drivers may be able to operate 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. Some 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 require endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Assess a Trucking School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you would like to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the Hot Springs National Park AR truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other variables, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are a few additional points that you should research while performing your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Hot Springs National Park AR area are accredited due to the stringent 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 required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Hot Springs National Park AR schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Arkansas licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Arkansas and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the teachers in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the personalized 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 train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Hot Springs National Park AR schools provide training programs that range from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously stated, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers stay current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best method is to check out the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driving school will provide sufficient 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. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time fluctuates among schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Hot Springs National Park AR schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified 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 maintaining associations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Hot Springs National Park AR schools you are considering are independent or captive 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 grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Arkansas, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Arkansas testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As earlier noted, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's important that the Hot Springs National Park 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 particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared 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 accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage 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 low job placement rate or not many Hot Springs National Park AR employers recruiting their grads, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driving schools are comparable 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 examining have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Right Hot Springs National Park AR Truck Driver Training
Choosing the ideal trucking school is a critical first step to beginning your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, you must obtain the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on money or financing, you may want to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you receive your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Hot Springs National Park AR.