How to Pick the Best CDL Driving School near Texarkana Arkansas
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Texarkana AR. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good income and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's important to obtain the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are certain variables that you'll need to consider prior to making your final selection. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Texarkana residence. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based only on price is not the optimal means to make sure you'll get the appropriate training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Texarkana AR, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will discuss Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short descriptions for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required 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 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. A few 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 might also require endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Assess a Trucking School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the process of evaluating the Texarkana AR trucking schools that you are looking at. 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 concerns. Other issues, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are some additional factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Texarkana AR area are accredited because of the rigorous process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real 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 Operation? One indicator to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Texarkana AR schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Arkansas licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Arkansas and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the individual attention they will need. This is especially true concerning 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 period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Texarkana AR schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As already mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to visit the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also speak with a few 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.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a good trucking school will furnish ample driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training methods, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time varies among schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Texarkana AR schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive free or discounted training from some trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Texarkana AR schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? 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 allowed in Arkansas, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Arkansas testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As formerly mentioned, truck driving training is only about one to two months long. With such a short duration, 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 willing to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Texarkana AR employers hiring their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Texarkana AR area technical or vocational 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 aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.
Select the Right Texarkana AR CDL Driver Training
Choosing the appropriate trucking school is a critical first step to starting your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available 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 safe and professional fashion. If you are short on cash or financing, you may want to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Texarkana AR.