How to Find the Best CDL Driving School near North Little Rock Arkansas
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near North Little Rock AR. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible job prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain variables that you'll need to think about prior to making your final choice. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your North Little Rock home. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based only on price is not the best way to make certain you'll get the right education. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and North Little Rock AR, a driver needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driving 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 together with 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 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. 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 Commercial Drivers License is required to operate 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. A few 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 drive certain types of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a CDL School
As soon as you have determined which CDL you wish to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the North Little Rock AR truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other variables, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are some additional factors that you should research while conducting your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the North Little Rock AR area are accredited because of the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, 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 certain 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 calls for 44 hours of real 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 training and curriculum will comply with the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of North Little Rock AR schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Arkansas licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Arkansas and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of North Little Rock AR schools offer training programs that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As previously mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors stay up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to visit the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driving school will provide ample driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time differs among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the North Little Rock AR schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get discounted or even free training from certain trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the North Little Rock AR schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Arkansas, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Arkansas testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As earlier noted, truck driving training is only about one to two months long. With such a short term, it's important that the North Little Rock AR school you select 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 teacher should be prepared to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many North Little Rock AR employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other North Little Rock AR area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Best North Little Rock AR CDL Training
Choosing the right truck driving school is an essential first step to launching your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, you must get the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on cash or financing, you might want to look into 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 select an independent truck driver school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in North Little Rock AR.