How to Decide on the Right CDL Driving School near Little Rock Arkansas
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Little Rock AR. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some research and have found that a career as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's important to obtain 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 examine prior to making your final selection. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Little Rock home. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal means to make sure you'll obtain the proper training. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question 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 commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Little Rock AR, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a person can apply 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 highlight Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind 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 two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 required to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Several 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 may also require endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Evaluate a CDL School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the Little Rock AR truck driving schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, cost and location will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other issues, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So below are some additional factors that you should research while performing your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Little Rock AR area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, 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. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 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 meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help measure the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, 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 relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Arkansas licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Arkansas and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the instructors in the next section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual 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 train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Little Rock AR schools provide training courses that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously stated, it's important that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driving school will furnish 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 operating a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time fluctuates between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Little Rock AR schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from certain truck driving schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific 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 instead of having associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Little Rock AR schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Arkansas, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from other schools for test times at Arkansas testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As earlier noted, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it's imperative that the Little Rock AR school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies 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 may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Little Rock AR area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.
Enroll in the Best Little Rock AR CDL Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driving school is a critical first step to starting your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on money or financing, you may 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 enroll in an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Little Rock AR.