How to Select the Best CDL Driving Classes near Springdale Arkansas
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Springdale AR. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have found that a career as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain variables that you'll want to think about before making your final selection. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Springdale home. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based only on price is not the best means to guarantee you'll obtain the proper education. Just remember, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Is Required?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Springdale AR, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will focus on Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief explanations of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more 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 CDL is required 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 operators may be qualified to drive 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 passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a Trucker School
When you have determined which CDL you would like to obtain, you can begin the process of researching the Springdale AR trucking schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other issues, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are some additional points that you need to research while performing your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Springdale AR area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driving 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. On the other hand, even the top Springdale AR schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. 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 compliance.
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 following segment. Also, 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 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 claims it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Springdale AR schools offer training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers stay current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal approach is to visit the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will provide 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. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time fluctuates among schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Springdale AR schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get discounted or even free training from a number of truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having associations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Springdale AR schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Arkansas, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Arkansas testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As previously mentioned, truck driving training is just one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Springdale AR school you select provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to start your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Springdale AR employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Springdale AR area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Right Springdale AR CDL Training
Picking the right trucking school is an essential first step to beginning your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. However, you must receive the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might need to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Springdale AR.