How to Select the Best Truck Driver School near North Little Rock Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near North Little Rock AR. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have found that a career as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's important to get the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several variables that you'll need to examine before making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your North Little Rock home. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the ideal method to make sure you'll obtain the proper education. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal 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 balance of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and North Little Rock AR, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short summaries for the 2 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. 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 CDL is required to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater 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 might also require endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Research a Truck Driving School
As soon as you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the process of researching the North Little Rock AR trucking schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other issues, 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 prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the North Little Rock AR area are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost 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 required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get lots of driving time. For 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 comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top North Little Rock AR schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Arkansas licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Arkansas and hire 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 higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personal attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning 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 period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of North Little Rock AR schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As previously stated, it's important that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors stay up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to check out the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy 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 furnish sufficient driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Even though 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 become. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the North Little Rock AR schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from a number of trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined time period. 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 refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the North Little Rock AR schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Arkansas, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates from other schools for test times at Arkansas testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is only about one to two months in length. With such a short duration, it's important that the North Little Rock AR school you select offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to commit 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 accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many North Little Rock AR employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other North Little Rock AR area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted.
Enroll in the Best North Little Rock AR CDL Training
Picking the ideal truck driver school is an important first step to starting your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must receive the proper training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might need to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive 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 many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in North Little Rock AR.