How to Choose the Right Truck Driver Classes near Paragould Arkansas
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Paragould AR. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's important to receive the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are a number of factors that you'll want to think about prior to making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Paragould home. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based solely on price is not the optimal method to guarantee you'll get the proper education. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
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 classes of licenses that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to choose 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). Following are short explanations of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 greater than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. A few 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 might also need endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School
When you have determined which CDL you wish to obtain, you can start the process of researching the Paragould AR truck driver schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other issues, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So below are some additional things that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Paragould AR area are accredited because of the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated 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 be given an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 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 benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? 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 top Paragould AR schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Arkansas licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Arkansas and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personalized attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Paragould AR schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As earlier stated, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors stay current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal approach is to check out the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also talk to 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.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driving school will provide ample driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Paragould AR schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain free or discounted training from a number of trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver 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 maintaining 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 surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Paragould AR schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Arkansas, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at Arkansas testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier mentioned, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's essential that the Paragould AR school you choose offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing 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? As soon as you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out 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 lower job placement rate or not many Paragould AR employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Paragould AR area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be submitted.
Choose the Right Paragould AR CDL Driver Training
Picking the ideal trucking school is a critical first step to launching your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must obtain the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may need to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent truck driver school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you get your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Paragould AR.