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How to Evaluate a CDL School
Once you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of researching the North Little Rock AR truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are a few more factors that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the North Little Rock AR area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more common 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 recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 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 curriculum and training will comply with the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of North Little Rock AR schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Arkansas licensing department to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Arkansas and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the personal attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most North Little Rock AR schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As earlier mentioned, it's imperative 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 prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a bit more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the best approach is to check out the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driver school will furnish lots of 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. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time varies among schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the North Little Rock AR schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive discounted or even free training from a number of truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the North Little Rock AR schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Arkansas, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Arkansas testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As previously noted, CDL training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the North 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 prepared to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many North Little Rock AR employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance 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 aid being available. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be submitted.