How to Choose the Best Truck Driving School near Russellville Arkansas
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Russellville AR. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible work prospects. No matter 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 several factors that you'll need to examine prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Russellville home. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the best method to make sure you'll get the appropriate education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations 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 balance 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 Is Required?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Russellville AR, a driver must 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. Given that the subject of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type 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 descriptions for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more 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 required to drive 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. Several 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 certain kinds of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School
Once you have decided which CDL you wish to obtain, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Russellville AR truck driving schools that you are considering. As already discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other factors, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So following are a few additional factors that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Russellville AR area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required 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 lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Russellville AR schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple 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 provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Arkansas licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Arkansas and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personalized instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes 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 Russellville AR schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As already stated, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal method is to visit the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driving school will provide plenty of 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 operating a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time varies between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Russellville 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 free or discounted training from certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining associations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Russellville AR schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Arkansas, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates from other schools for test times at Arkansas testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As earlier mentioned, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Russellville AR school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? As soon as you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Russellville AR employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Russellville AR area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enroll in the Right Russellville AR Truck Driving Training
Selecting the ideal trucking school is an important first step to launching your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must get the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you might want to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower 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 company 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 entering a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Russellville AR.