How to Enroll in the Best Truck Driving Classes near Paragould Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Paragould AR. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open road while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to receive the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of factors that you'll want to examine before making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Paragould residence. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the best means to guarantee you'll receive the right training. Just remember, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles legally 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. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will focus on Class A and Class 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 brief explanations for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater 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 CDL is needed to drive 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. Some 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 may also require endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School
Once you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can begin the process of evaluating the Paragould AR trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other variables, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are several additional things that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Paragould AR area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense 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. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive 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 course is certified (the course, 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 measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly ranked 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 best of Paragould AR schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Arkansas licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Arkansas and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual instruction they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Paragould AR schools offer training programs that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors 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 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 level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driving 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 simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time differs between schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. 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 looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get discounted or even free training from a number of truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having relationships with a wide range of 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 flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict 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 Paragould AR schools you are looking at are captive or independent 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 driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Arkansas, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from other schools for test times at Arkansas testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As earlier noted, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's important that the Paragould AR school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio 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 hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Paragould AR area technical or vocational 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 Best Paragould AR Truck Driving Training
Picking the right truck driver school is an essential 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 forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must receive the appropriate training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you may want to think about 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 trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Paragould AR.