How to Choose the Right Trucker School near Hot Springs Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Hot Springs AR. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good income and flexible work 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 reviewing your options, there are certain variables that you'll want to examine prior to making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Hot Springs home. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the optimal method to guarantee you'll receive the right education. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective 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 discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Hot Springs AR, a driver must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates 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 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. Some 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate 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 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 might also require endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Assess a Truck Driving School
When you have determined which CDL you want to obtain, you can begin the process of evaluating the Hot Springs AR trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other factors, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So below are several more points that you should research while conducting your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Hot Springs AR area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more common and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive lots of driving time. As an 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 satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Hot Springs AR schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school's track record is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Arkansas licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective 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 next section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the personal instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Hot Springs AR schools offer training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a little more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the ideal method is to check out the school and talk to the teachers 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 level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, a good trucking school will furnish 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 operating a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important 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 become. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Hot Springs AR schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to get discounted or even free training from certain trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Hot Springs AR schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Arkansas, find out if the schools you are looking at 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 locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As formerly noted, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's essential that the Hot Springs AR school you choose offers 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 holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Hot Springs AR employers hiring their grads, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Hot Springs AR area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance 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 must be completed.
Select the Right Hot Springs AR Truck Driving Training
Choosing the ideal trucking school is an essential first step to starting your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must receive the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on 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 select an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Hot Springs AR.