How to Enroll in the Right CDL Driving 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 goal to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to receive the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain variables that you'll need to consider before making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Paragould home. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based solely on price is not the optimal means to make sure you'll obtain the right education. Just remember, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Paragould AR, a driver must obtain 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. Since the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and 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 short descriptions for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 CDL is needed to drive 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. Some 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 drive specific types of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Research a Truck Driver School
After you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of researching the Paragould AR trucking schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other issues, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are some more factors that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Paragould AR area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. As an 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 indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school normally will not be 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 track record is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Arkansas licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Arkansas and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the teachers in the next section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the personalized instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning 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 requires time. Most Paragould AR schools provide training courses that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As earlier mentioned, it's important that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students going through 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 driving school will provide sufficient driving time to its students. Besides, 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 simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time can vary among schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Paragould AR schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain free or discounted training from a number of truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. 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 get affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Paragould AR schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Arkansas, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of other schools for test times at Arkansas testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As formerly noted, truck driving training is just one to two months long. With such a short duration, it's important that the Paragould AR school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to start your new career. Confirm 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 local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Paragould AR employers recruiting their grads, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Truck driver schools are comparable to 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 assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Right Paragould AR CDL Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driver school is an important first step to beginning your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must get the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may want to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driver 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 get your training, you will in the near future be joining a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Paragould AR.