How to Select the Best Truck Driver Classes near Little Rock Arkansas
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Little Rock AR. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible work prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to get the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various factors that you'll need to think about before making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Little Rock home. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based solely on price is not the ideal means to guarantee you'll receive the right education. Don't forget, your goal is to master 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 pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Little Rock AR, a driver needs to get 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 topic of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will focus on Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind 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 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater 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 required to operate 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 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 CDLs may also require endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a Trucking School
As soon as you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can start the undertaking of researching the Little Rock AR truck driving schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other factors, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So following are a few more points that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the Little Rock AR area are accredited because of the demanding process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several 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 requires 44 hours of actual driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Little Rock AR schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Arkansas licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Arkansas and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the individual instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that insists it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Little Rock AR schools provide training courses that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As previously mentioned, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the best approach is to check out the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent trucking school will provide plenty 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 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 become. Although driving time varies among schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Little Rock AR schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive discounted or even free training from certain truck driving schools if you make a commitment to be a driver 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 affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Little Rock AR schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Arkansas, ask if the schools you are considering 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 centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As earlier mentioned, CDL 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 choose provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have attained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio 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 few Little Rock AR employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a sign 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 offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Select the Best Little Rock AR Truck Driving Training
Choosing the right truck driving school is an important first step to starting your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. 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 money or financing, you may need to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Little Rock AR.