How to Decide on the Best Truck Driving Classes near Hot Springs National Park Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Hot Springs National Park AR. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides good pay and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to receive the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of factors that you'll need to consider before making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Hot Springs National Park residence. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based solely on price is not the best method to make sure you'll get the appropriate education. Don't forget, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Hot Springs National Park AR, a driver needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes 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). Following are brief explanations of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate 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 drive single vehicles having a GVWR of more 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 types of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School
When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can begin the process of evaluating the Hot Springs National Park AR truck driver schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other factors, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So below are a few more points that you need to research while conducting your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the Hot Springs National Park AR area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 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 measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school typically 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 first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Arkansas licensing department to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Arkansas and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the individual attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that claims it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Hot Springs National Park AR schools provide training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As earlier mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor 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 teachers may be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal method is to visit the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also speak with a few of the students going through 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? Above all else, an excellent truck driving school will provide 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 driving a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time can vary among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Hot Springs National Park AR schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive free or discounted training from certain truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having associations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit 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 opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Hot Springs National Park AR schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Arkansas, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Arkansas testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier noted, truck driving training is just one to two months long. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Hot Springs National Park AR school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? The moment you have received your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Hot Springs National Park AR employers recruiting their grads, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? 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 available. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Right Hot Springs National Park AR CDL Driver Training
Choosing the appropriate trucking school is a critical first step to launching your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on cash or financing, you might want to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent truck driving 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 decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Hot Springs National Park AR.