How to Enroll in the Right Trucking Classes near Russellville Arkansas
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Russellville AR. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have found that a career as a truck driver provides good income and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to receive the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various factors that you'll need to consider prior to making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Russellville residence. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the best way to ensure you'll get the right training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Is Required?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Russellville AR, an operator must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will address 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). Below are short summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more 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 greater 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also require endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Research a Trucker School
As soon as you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can begin the process of assessing the Russellville AR truck driving schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other factors, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So below are several more things that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Russellville AR area are accredited because of the stringent process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get lots of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual 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 curriculum and training will meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Russellville AR schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Arkansas licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Arkansas and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater 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 concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Russellville AR schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's imperative that the teachers are qualified 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 an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors stay current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the ideal method is to check out the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a good trucking school will provide ample driving time to its students. Besides, 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 replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time varies between schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Russellville AR schools you are considering and ask 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 be a driver for a specific 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 affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Russellville 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 trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Arkansas, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at Arkansas testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As formerly noted, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's essential that the Russellville AR school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Russellville AR employers recruiting their grads, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Russellville AR area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be submitted.
Select the Right Russellville AR Truck Driving Training
Choosing the appropriate trucking school is an essential first step to beginning your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. However, you must get the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you might want to look into 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 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 choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Russellville AR.