How to Decide on the Right Truck Driving School near West Helena Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near West Helena AR. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible work opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it’s imperative to get the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain factors that you’ll need to think about before making your final choice. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your West Helena home. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based only on price is not the best way to guarantee you’ll obtain the proper training. Don’t forget, your objective 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 purpose in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and West Helena AR, an operator must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 classes of licenses that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driver 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 as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short descriptions of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 CDL is needed 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 drive specific types of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Research a Truck Driver School
Once you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can begin the process of researching the West Helena AR truck driving schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can’t be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other factors, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are a few more points that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the West Helena AR area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, 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 certain advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get lots 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 Business? One indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top West Helena AR schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also learn what the school’s history is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won’t share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn’t hurt 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? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Arkansas and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any greater, then students will not be obtaining 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 train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of West Helena AR schools provide training programs that range from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As already stated, it’s essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though 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 crucial that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and possibly the best method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher’s qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driving 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 driving a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time varies between schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the West Helena AR schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It’s possible to obtain free or discounted training from certain truck driving schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the West Helena AR schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Arkansas, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Arkansas testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is only about one to two months long. With such a brief term, it’s essential that the West Helena AR school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you’re having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to devote 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 attained your commercial driver’s license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many West Helena AR employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other West Helena AR area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.
Thinking of a Truck Drivier School near West Helena AR?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the West Helena Arkansas area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
Helena–West Helena, Arkansas
Helena–West Helena is the county seat of and the largest city within Phillips County, Arkansas, United States. The current city was consolidated, effective January 1, 2006, from the two Arkansas cities of Helena and West Helena. Helena is sited on lowlands between the Mississippi River and the eastern side of Crowley's Ridge. West Helena is located on the western side of Crowley's Ridge, a geographic anomaly in the typically flat Arkansas Delta. The Helena Bridge, one of Arkansas' four Mississippi River bridges, carries U.S. Route 49 across to Mississippi. The combined population of the two cities was 15,012 at the 2000 census and at the 2010 census, the official population was 12,282.
The municipality traces its historical roots to the founding of the port town of Helena on the Mississippi River by European Americans in 1833. As the county seat, Helena was the center of a prosperous cotton plantation region in the antebellum years. Helena was occupied by the Union Army early in the American Civil War. The city was the site of the Battle of Helena fought in 1863. Confederate forces unsuccessfully tried to expel Union forces from Helena in order to help relieve pressure on the strategic river town of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Later in the year, Helena served as the launching point for the Union Army in the capture of Little Rock, the state capital.
A thriving blues community developed here in the 1940s and 1950s as rural musicians relocated for city jobs. Mechanization had reduced the need for farm workers. The city continued to grow until the closing of the Mohawk Rubber Company, a subsidiary of Yokohama Rubber Company, in the 1970s. Unemployment surged shortly after.
CDL Class B Training West Helena AR
Picking the right truck driver school is an important first step to beginning your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver’s success. You originally came to our website because of your interest in CDL Class B Training. However, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on money or financing, you might want to look into 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 enroll in an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, 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 an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in West Helena AR.
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