How to Choose a Truck Driver School near Pine Bluff Arkansas
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Pine Bluff AR. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it’s imperative to obtain the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several factors that you’ll want to consider before making your final selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Pine Bluff home. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the optimal means to ensure you’ll obtain the right education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver’s license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally in Arkansas and within the USA, a driver needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The three license classes that one 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 near Pine Bluff 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 explanations of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License 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. 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also require endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School
As soon as you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can begin the process of assessing the Pine Bluff AR truck driving schools that you are considering. As already discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can’t be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other factors, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are several more factors that you need to research while performing your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few Pine Bluff AR trucking schools are accredited because of the rigorous process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, 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 a number of advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given lots of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual 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 training and curriculum will measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help measure the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Pine Bluff AR schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school’s track record is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won’t supply those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to get in touch with the Arkansas licensing department to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
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 section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it’s any greater, then students will not be receiving the personal attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that claims it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Pine Bluff AR schools offer training programs that range from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As previously mentioned, 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 prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also crucial that the teachers stay current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers might be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to check out the Pine Bluff AR school and talk to 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 level of instruction and the teacher’s qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, 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 driving a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Pine Bluff AR schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It’s possible to get free or discounted training from a number of Pine Bluff AR 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 offer it are called captives. So rather than having affiliations with a wide range of 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 work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Arkansas, ask if the Pine Bluff AR schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from other schools for test times at Arkansas testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As earlier noted, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief duration, it’s important that the Pine Bluff AR school you choose 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 willing 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 Provided? The moment you have acquired your commercial driver’s license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to start your new profession in Pine Bluff AR. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many employers hiring their grads, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed in Pine Bluff AR.
Why Did You Choose to Become a Tractor Trailer Operator?When getting ready to interview for a Trucking job, it's helpful to consider questions you might be asked. One of the things that recruiters often ask truck driving prospects is "What drove you to decide on trucking as a career?". What the interviewer is trying to discover is not only the private reasons you may have for becoming a truck driver, but additionally what attributes and talents you have that make you outstanding at what you do. You will probably be asked questions pertaining exclusively to trucking, as well as a significant number of standard interview questions, so you need to organize some strategies about how you want to answer them. Because there are so many variables that go into selecting a career, you can answer this fundamental question in a variety of ways. When preparing an answer, aim to include the reasons the profession appeals to you along with the strengths you possess that make you an excellent truck driver and the ideal candidate for the job. Don't try to memorize an answer, but jot down a few concepts and talking points that relate to your personal experiences and strengths. Reviewing sample answers can help you to prepare your own thoughts, and give you ideas of what to discuss to enthuse the recruiter.
Choose the Right Trucking School Pine Bluff AR
Choosing the ideal truck driver school is a critical first step to launching your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught 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 obtain the necessary training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might want to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It’s your choice. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Pine Bluff AR.
A Bit About Pine Bluff Arkansas
Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Pine Bluff is the tenth-largest city in the state of Arkansas and the county seat of Jefferson County. It is the principal city of the Pine Bluff Metropolitan Statistical Area and part of the Little Rock-North Little Rock-Pine Bluff Combined Statistical Area. The population of the city was 49,083 in the 2010 Census with 2016 estmates showing a decline to 43,841.
The city is situated in the Southeast section of the Arkansas Delta and straddles the Arkansas Timberlands region to its west. Its topography is flat with wide expanses of farmland, consistent with other places in the Delta Lowlands. Pine Bluff has numerous creeks, streams, and bayous. (Bayou Bartholomew is the longest bayou in the world and is the second most-diverse stream in the United States). Large bodies of water include Lake Pine Bluff, Lake Langhofer (Slack Water Harbor), and the Arkansas River.
The area along the Arkansas River had been inhabited for thousands of years by indigenous peoples of various cultures. They used the river for transportation as did European settlers after them, and for fishing. By the time of encounter with Europeans, the historical Quapaw were the chief people in the area, having migrated from the Ohio River valley centuries before.
The city of Pine Bluff was founded by Europeans on a high bank of the Arkansas River heavily forested with tall pine trees. The high ground furnished settlers a safe haven from annual flooding. Joseph Bonne, a Métis fur trader and trapper of mixed Quapaw and colonial French ancestry, settled on this bluff in 1819.
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