How to Choose the Best Trucking Classes near Jonesboro Arkansas
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Jonesboro AR. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to receive the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various variables that you'll want to consider prior to making your final selection. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Jonesboro residence. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the optimal method to make certain you'll get the right education. Don't forget, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Jonesboro AR, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will focus on Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates 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 summaries of the two 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 greater than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 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 drive specific types of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a Trucking School
When you have determined which CDL you wish to pursue, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Jonesboro AR truck driver schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other issues, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So following are some additional factors that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Jonesboro AR area are accredited because of the rigorous process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a trucking 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. However, even the top Jonesboro AR schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Arkansas licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Arkansas and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the next segment. 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 receiving the personalized attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Jonesboro AR schools offer training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As already mentioned, it's important that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a little 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 completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driving school will provide lots 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 driving a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time varies among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Jonesboro AR schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from some truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having affiliations with many different 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. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Jonesboro AR schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit 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 reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Arkansas testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier noted, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Jonesboro AR school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? As soon as you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Jonesboro AR employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Jonesboro AR area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Best Jonesboro AR CDL Driver Training
Selecting the ideal trucking school is an important first step to launching your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might need to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Jonesboro AR.