How to Enroll in the Right Trucker Classes near Jacksonville Arkansas
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Jacksonville AR. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of variables that you'll need to consider prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Jacksonville home. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based solely on price is not the optimal way to make sure you'll obtain the right education. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional 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 CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Is Required?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Jacksonville AR, an operator 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 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 type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief summaries for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more 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 CDL is needed 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. A few 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also require endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a Truck Driving School
After you have determined which CDL you want to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the Jacksonville AR truck driver schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other variables, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So following are some more factors that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Jacksonville AR area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Prospective 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 requires 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's course is certified (the course, 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 indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Jacksonville AR schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact 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 experienced and trained. We will cover more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher 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 be critical of any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Jacksonville AR schools offer training courses that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As previously mentioned, it's essential that the instructors are qualified 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 an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors might be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to visit the school and talk to the instructors 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 ability to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driver school will provide 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. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time fluctuates among schools, a reasonable 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 Jacksonville AR schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from some truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining relationships 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 be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Jacksonville AR schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Arkansas, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at Arkansas testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As formerly noted, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Jacksonville AR school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? The moment you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Ask 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 hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Jacksonville AR employers hiring their grads, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Jacksonville AR area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.
Select the Right Jacksonville AR Truck Driving Training
Selecting the ideal truck driving school is an essential first step to beginning 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 crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may need to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Jacksonville AR.