How to Select the Best CDL Driving School near Texarkana Arkansas
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Texarkana AR. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible job prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to get the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various variables that you'll want to examine before making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Texarkana home. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based solely on price is not the best way to make sure you'll get the right training. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams 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 talk a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Is Required?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Texarkana AR, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short summaries for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed 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 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 Commercial Drivers License is required to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Several 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 CDLs may also require endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Research a Truck Driving School
Once you have decided which CDL you want to pursue, you can begin the process of researching the Texarkana AR truck driver schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other variables, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So below are a few additional things that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Texarkana AR area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost 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 obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get lots of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real 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 curriculum and training will meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Texarkana AR schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts 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 researching are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Arkansas and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personal attention 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 teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time period. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Texarkana AR schools provide training courses that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As earlier stated, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent 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 driving a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time varies between schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Texarkana AR schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get discounted or even free training from a number of trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Texarkana AR schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Arkansas, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at Arkansas testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As previously noted, truck driving training is just one to two months in length. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Texarkana AR school you choose provides 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 instructor should be prepared to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? The moment you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Texarkana AR employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Texarkana AR area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Best Texarkana AR CDL Driver Training
Picking the right truck driving school is a critical first step to launching your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must receive the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on money or financing, you might want to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Texarkana AR.