How to Decide on the Best Trucker Classes near Hot Springs Arkansas
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Hot Springs AR. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible work opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to get the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various variables that you'll need to examine before making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Hot Springs residence. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the optimal means to make sure you'll get the appropriate training. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address 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?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Hot Springs AR, a driver must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will highlight 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 brief explanations for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more 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 CDL is required to drive 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. Some 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also need endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Assess a Trucking School
As soon as you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the process of researching the Hot Springs AR truck driving schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So below are some additional 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 ? Very few truck driver schools in the Hot Springs AR area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 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 benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Hot Springs AR schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Arkansas licensing department to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Arkansas and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the individual instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that insists it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Hot Springs AR schools provide training programs that run from 3 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 instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers might be a little more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the best method is to visit the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to some 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.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a great 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 real 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 alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time differs between schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Hot Springs AR schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get free or discounted training from a number of trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Hot Springs AR schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow 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 reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Arkansas testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As previously mentioned, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Hot Springs AR school you choose 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 teacher should be prepared to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? The moment you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Hot Springs AR employers recruiting their grads, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Hot Springs AR area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enroll in the Best Hot Springs AR CDL Training
Selecting the ideal trucking school is a critical first step to beginning your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. However, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you may need to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Hot Springs AR.