How to Pick the Right Trucking Classes near Jacksonville Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Jacksonville AR. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to get the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several factors that you'll want to think about prior to making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Jacksonville home. The expense will also be of importance, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal way to make certain you'll receive the right training. Just remember, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Jacksonville AR, a driver needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that one can qualify 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 B licenses. What distinguishes 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 descriptions of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 may also require endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Assess a Truck Driving School
As soon as you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can start the process of assessing the Jacksonville AR truck driver schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your initial considerations. 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 or even more important. So following are a few more points that you should research while performing your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Jacksonville AR area are accredited because of the rigorous process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual 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 curriculum and training will measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help measure the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Jacksonville AR schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Arkansas licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Arkansas and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the instructors in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personal instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that professes it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Jacksonville AR schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As earlier mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors might be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best method is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a good trucking school will provide ample 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. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time can vary between schools, a good standard 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 Jacksonville AR schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain free or discounted training from certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining relationships with numerous 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 work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Jacksonville AR schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Arkansas, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Arkansas testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As previously mentioned, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's imperative that the Jacksonville 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 dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are reviewing 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 companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Jacksonville AR employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Jacksonville AR area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Best Jacksonville AR Truck Driving Training
Picking the right truck driving school is a critical first step to beginning your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must get the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may need to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will soon be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Jacksonville AR.