How to Pick the Best Trucker School near Little Rock Arkansas
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Little Rock AR. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible work prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's important to get the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several factors that you'll want to examine before making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Little Rock residence. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the ideal means to make certain you'll receive the right training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you select 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 talk a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Is Required?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Little Rock AR, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic 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). Following are brief descriptions of the two 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 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 CDL is needed to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more 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 operate specific types of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Evaluate a CDL School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you would like to pursue, you can start the undertaking of researching the Little Rock AR truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So following are several additional points that you need to research while conducting your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Little Rock AR area are accredited because of the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is provided 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 caliber, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual 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 training and curriculum will fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively ranked 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 Little Rock AR schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Arkansas licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Arkansas and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personal instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Little Rock AR schools offer training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As already mentioned, it's important that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several 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 crucial that the instructors stay current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with 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 level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driver school will provide ample 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. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time can vary among 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. Contact the Little Rock AR schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from some trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having relationships with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Little Rock AR schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Arkansas, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at Arkansas testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As previously noted, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Little Rock AR school you choose provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Little Rock AR employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to search 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 available. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enroll in the Best Little Rock AR CDL Training
Picking the appropriate truck driving school is a critical first step to beginning your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might want to consider 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 trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Little Rock AR.