How to Choose a Truck Driver School near Charleston Arkansas
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Charleston AR. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it’s essential to get the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several factors that you’ll need to consider before making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Charleston residence. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the best means to make certain you’ll get the appropriate training. Just remember, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you decide on 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 talk a little bit about which commercial driver’s license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally in Arkansas and within the United States, a driver must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to select a truck driver school near Charleston AR, we will discuss Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes 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). Following are brief summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 required to drive 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. A few 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, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the Charleston AR truck driving schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can’t be stressed enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other variables, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So below are several more factors that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many Charleston AR trucking schools are accredited because of 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 a number of advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. 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 assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Charleston AR schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school’s track record is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won’t provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to get in touch with the Arkansas licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Arkansas and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any greater, then students will not be getting the individual attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Charleston AR schools offer training courses 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 Instructors? As previously stated, it’s imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It’s also important that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more subjective than other standards, and possibly the best approach is to pay a visit to the Charleston AR school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also talk to 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.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driver school will furnish ample driving time to its students. After all, 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 ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Charleston AR schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get free or discounted training from certain Charleston AR truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what’s known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Arkansas, find out if the Charleston AR schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates from other schools for test times at Arkansas testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As formerly mentioned, truck driving training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it’s important that the Charleston AR school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an 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 working while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have received your commercial driver’s license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to start your new career in Charleston AR. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job placement 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 hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few employers hiring their grads, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed in Charleston AR.
Why Did You Desire to Be a Trucker?When prepping to interview for a Trucking job, it's important to review questions you could be asked. One of the things that recruiters often ask truck driving applicants is "What drove you to decide on trucking as a career?". What the interviewer is trying to uncover is not just the personal reasons you might have for becoming a truck driver, but also what characteristics and skills you have that make you exceptional at your profession. You will likely be asked questions pertaining exclusively to trucking, in addition to a certain number of routine interview questions, so you need to prepare several approaches about how you would like to respond to them. Given that there are so many factors that go into selecting a career, you can answer this fundamental question in a variety of ways. When readying an answer, try to include the reasons the work interests you as well as the strengths you possess that make you an excellent truck driver and the ideal choice for the job. Don't make an effort to memorize a response, but take down a few concepts and talking points that pertain to your personal experiences and strengths. Reading through sample answers can assist you to develop your own concepts, and provide ideas of what to include to wow the recruiter.
Select the Ideal Trucking School Charleston AR
Choosing the right truck driving school is an important first step to beginning 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 crucial to a new driver’s success. Most importantly, 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 funds or financing, you may want to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It’s your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Charleston AR.
A Bit About Charleston Arkansas
Charleston is a city in Franklin County, Arkansas, United States, and (along with Ozark) one of the two county seats of Franklin County. It is part of the Fort Smith, Arkansas-Oklahoma Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 2,522 at the 2010 census, down from 2,965 at the 2000 census.
Charleston is in southwestern Franklin County, along Arkansas Highway 22, which leads east 9 miles (14 km) to Ratcliff and west 24 miles (39 km) to Fort Smith.
According to the United States Census Bureau, Charleston has a total area of 4.4 square miles (11.4 km2), of which 4.3 square miles (11.1 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.3 km2), or 2.53%, is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 2,965 people, 1,201 households, and 815 families residing in the city. The population density was 706.4 people per square mile (272.6/km²). There were 1,315 housing units at an average density of 313.3 per square mile (120.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 95.58% White, 0.07% Black or African American, 0.64% Native American, 0.34% Asian, 1.48% from other races, and 1.89% from two or more races. 2.06% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
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