How to Decide on the Right Trucker Classes near Hot Springs Arkansas
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Hot Springs AR. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible work opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to receive the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several factors that you'll need to consider prior to making your final selection. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you have to commute from your Hot Springs home. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the optimal way to ensure you'll receive the appropriate training. Just remember, 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 decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Hot Springs AR, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will focus on Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short descriptions for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL 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. A few 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 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 may also need endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Assess a Trucker School
When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of researching the Hot Springs AR trucking schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other issues, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So below are several additional points that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Hot Springs AR area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real 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 curriculum and training will satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school usually will not be 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 first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Arkansas licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Arkansas and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following segment. 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 individual attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Hot Springs AR schools provide training courses that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As earlier stated, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques 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 a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors may be a little more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the best approach is to check out the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to 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? Most importantly, a good truck driver school will provide plenty of driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check 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 discounted or even free training from a number of trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Hot Springs AR schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd 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 contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Arkansas testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As formerly noted, truck driver training is just one to two months long. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Hot Springs AR school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Hot Springs AR employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Trucking schools are comparable 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 aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Best Hot Springs AR CDL Driver Training
Selecting the appropriate truck driving school is a critical first step to beginning your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must receive the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you may need to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Hot Springs AR.