How to Select the Best Trucking School near Texarkana Arkansas
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Texarkana AR. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's important to receive the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various factors that you'll need to examine prior to making your final selection. Location will certainly be important, especially if you need to commute from your Texarkana home. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the optimal way to make sure you'll obtain the right training. Just remember, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective 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 balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Is Required?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Texarkana AR, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will address Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short descriptions for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 CDL is required to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Some of the vehicles that drivers may be qualified to operate 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 kinds of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Assess a Trucker School
As soon as you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of researching the Texarkana AR truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other variables, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So below are a few more things that you should research while conducting your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Texarkana AR area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more typical and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 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 curriculum and training will satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated 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 best of Texarkana AR schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Arkansas licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Arkansas and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personal attention they will need. This is particularly 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 relatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Texarkana AR schools offer training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As earlier stated, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a good trucking school will furnish sufficient 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. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training methods, they are no replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time can vary among schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 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 receive free or discounted training from certain trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with many different 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 giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. 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 looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Arkansas, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Arkansas testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As formerly noted, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief term, it's important that the Texarkana AR school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Ask 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 hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Texarkana AR employers hiring their grads, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Texarkana AR area vocational or trade 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 assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Select the Right Texarkana AR Truck Driving Training
Selecting the right truck driving school is an essential first step to beginning your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, you must get the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you may want to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent CDL school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Texarkana AR.