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How to Assess a Truck Driving School
When you have determined which CDL you want to pursue, you can start the undertaking of assessing the West Memphis AR truck driver schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So following are several additional things that you should research while conducting your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the West Memphis AR area are accredited because of the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more typical and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get lots of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of West Memphis AR schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a superior 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 department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Effective 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 next 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 getting the personalized instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that insists it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most West Memphis AR schools provide training programs that range from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As already stated, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to visit the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with 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, an excellent truck driver school will provide sufficient driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the West Memphis AR schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from some trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having associations with many different 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 surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. 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 obtain affordable training. Just remember to find out if the West Memphis AR schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Arkansas, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than competing 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 higher quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As formerly noted, truck driver training is just one to two months long. With such a short duration, it's essential that the West Memphis AR school you select provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Ask 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 employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many West Memphis AR employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other West Memphis AR area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.