How to Find the Right CDL Training School near Paragould Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Paragould AR. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides good income and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's important to obtain the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several variables that you'll need to examine prior to making your final selection. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Paragould residence. The expense will also be of importance, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the best method to make certain you'll get the right education. Don't forget, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Paragould AR, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three 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 highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type 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 descriptions of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more 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 greater than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Several of the vehicles that operators may be qualified to drive 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 operate certain kinds of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Research a Trucker School
As soon as you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can begin the process of assessing the Paragould AR truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other factors, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So following are a few more points that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Paragould AR area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real 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 training and curriculum will meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Paragould AR schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple 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 provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Arkansas licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Arkansas and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, 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 watch out for any school that claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Paragould AR schools provide training courses that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As already stated, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driver school will furnish plenty 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. While 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 gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Paragould AR schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from a number of truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Paragould AR schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Arkansas, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Arkansas testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is only about one to two months long. With such a short term, it's essential that the Paragould AR school you choose offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while attending 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 truck driver school, you will be impatient to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Paragould AR employers recruiting their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Paragould AR area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Select the Right Paragould AR CDL Driver Training
Selecting the appropriate trucking school is a critical first step to starting your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, you must receive the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might want to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Paragould AR.