How to Decide on the Best CDL Training Classes near Russellville Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Russellville AR. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides good income and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to get the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various variables that you'll need to think about prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Russellville home. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based only on price is not the optimal method to make certain you'll receive the appropriate education. Don't forget, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question 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 Is Required?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Russellville AR, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short summaries for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL 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. Some 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 Commercial Drivers License 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. 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 might also need endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a Truck Driving School
When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can start the process of assessing the Russellville AR truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other variables, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are several additional factors that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Russellville AR area are accredited because of the rigorous 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. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual 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 training and curriculum will fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed 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 use it as one of several qualifiers. 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 numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch 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 hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personalized 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 insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Russellville AR schools provide training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As earlier stated, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors might be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to check out the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a great trucking school will provide lots of 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 operating a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time differs among schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch 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 receive free or discounted training from some trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive 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 rather than maintaining relationships with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the best 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.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Arkansas, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Arkansas testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is just one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the Russellville AR school you select offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Ask 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 referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Russellville AR employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Russellville AR area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Select the Right Russellville AR CDL Driver Training
Choosing the right trucking school is an important first step to beginning your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets 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 if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must receive the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you might need to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even 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 choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Russellville AR.