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How to Evaluate a CDL School
As soon as you have determined which CDL you wish to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Hot Springs AR truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, location and cost will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other factors, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are some additional points that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly 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 demanding process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 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 meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed 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 AR schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Arkansas licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Arkansas and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personalized attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Hot Springs AR schools offer training courses 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 Teachers? As earlier mentioned, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors may be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the best approach is to visit the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driving school will furnish plenty 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. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time fluctuates 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. Get in touch with the Hot Springs 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 certain truck driving schools if you make a commitment to drive 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 maintaining affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict 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 inquire if the Hot Springs AR schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Arkansas, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Arkansas testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As formerly noted, truck driving training is just one to two months long. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Hot Springs AR school you select provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to spend 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? As soon as you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Hot Springs AR employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Hot Springs 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 understand the options and forms that must be completed.