How to Choose the Right Truck Driving School near Paragould Arkansas
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Paragould AR. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to get the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several variables that you'll want to examine before making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Paragould home. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based solely on price is not the best way to guarantee you'll obtain the appropriate training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams 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 remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Paragould AR, a driver needs to get 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 topic of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will focus on Class A and B licenses. What differentiates 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). Below are brief summaries for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 operate single vehicles having a GVWR of more 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 CDLs might also require endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Evaluate a Trucker School
As soon as you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can begin the process of evaluating the Paragould AR truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, location and cost will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other factors, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So below are several additional things that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Paragould AR area are accredited because of the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, 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 recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get 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 training and curriculum will comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Paragould AR schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Arkansas licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Arkansas and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the next section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personal attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that professes it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Paragould AR schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As already stated, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to visit the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will furnish ample 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 driving a truck. Even though 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. And even though driving time varies between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Paragould AR schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from a number of truck driving schools if you make a commitment to drive for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Paragould AR schools you are looking at 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 permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Arkansas, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Arkansas testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As formerly mentioned, truck driving training is just one to two months in length. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Paragould 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 certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have attained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement rate 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 lower job placement rate or few Paragould AR employers recruiting their grads, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Paragould 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 reviewing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Best Paragould AR CDL Driver Training
Picking the right truck driving school is a critical first step to starting your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape 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 professional and safe manner. If you are lacking funds 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 trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Paragould AR.