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How to Evaluate a CDL School
When you have decided which CDL you want to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the Texarkana AR truck driver schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other factors, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So following are several more things that you should research while performing your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Texarkana AR area are accredited because of the stringent process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 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 benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Texarkana AR schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the trade, 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 verify that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Arkansas and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the next section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personalized instruction they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Texarkana AR schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As previously mentioned, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the best approach is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, a great trucking school will furnish sufficient driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Texarkana AR schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get discounted or even free training from some trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having associations with a wide range of 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 be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Texarkana AR schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow 3rd 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 advantage is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates from other schools for test times at Arkansas testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is just one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the Texarkana AR school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Texarkana AR employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Texarkana AR area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.