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How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School
Once you have decided which CDL you wish to pursue, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Sherwood AR truck driving schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other factors, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are some more factors that you should research while conducting your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Sherwood AR area are accredited because of the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace 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. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 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 training and curriculum will meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Sherwood AR schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Arkansas licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Arkansas and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the next section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the individual instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Sherwood AR schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As previously mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to visit 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 quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driver school will provide lots of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time varies between schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Sherwood AR schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get free or discounted training from certain truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with many different 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 surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Sherwood AR schools you are looking at are independent or captive 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 truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted 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 competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at Arkansas testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As previously noted, truck driver training is just one to two months long. With such a brief term, it's important that the Sherwood AR school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to dedicate 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 commitments.
Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Sherwood AR employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Sherwood 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 aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.