How to Enroll in the Right Trucking School near Little Rock Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Little Rock AR. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to obtain the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of variables that you'll need to examine prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Little Rock home. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal way to make certain you'll obtain the proper training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Is Required?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Little Rock AR, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes 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 driver school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief explanations for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to operate 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 CDL is required 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. A few 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 types of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may 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 determined which CDL you want to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Little Rock AR truck driving schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other variables, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So below are a few more points that you should research while performing your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Little Rock AR area are accredited because of the rigorous 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 obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real 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 curriculum and training will fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Little Rock AR schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Arkansas licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Arkansas and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the next section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the individual attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Little Rock AR schools provide training courses that run from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As previously mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers stay current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to visit the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driver school will furnish 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 driving a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time differs between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Little Rock AR schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive free or discounted training from some trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit 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 find out if the Little Rock AR schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Arkansas, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide 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 also an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is only about one to two months in length. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Little Rock AR school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Little Rock AR employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Little Rock AR area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask 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 must be submitted.
Enroll in the Best Little Rock AR Truck Driver Training
Selecting the appropriate truck driving school is an essential first step to starting your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must get the necessary training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be joining a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Little Rock AR.