How to Select a Truck Driving School near West Point Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near West Point AR. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides good income and flexible work prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it’s essential to obtain the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several factors that you’ll want to consider prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your West Point home. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based only on price is not the optimal way to make sure you’ll get the right education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional 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 address in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within the United States and West Point AR, an operator must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The three license classes that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will focus on Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief explanations for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 more 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also require endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Research a Trucking School
As soon as you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of researching the West Point AR truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can’t be stressed enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other issues, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So following are a few additional points that you need to research while performing your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the West Point AR area are accredited because of the demanding process and expense 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 required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given lots of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual 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 training and curriculum will satisfy the very high standards 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 ranked or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of West Point AR schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also find out what the school’s history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won’t share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn’t hurt to contact the Arkansas licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Arkansas and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. 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 greater, then students will not be getting the individual instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most West Point AR schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As already mentioned, it’s essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also vital that the instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal approach is to visit the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher’s ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driving school will provide 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 operating a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no replacement for actual 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 provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the West Point AR schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive free or discounted training from a number of truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of 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 free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the West Point AR schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. 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 indicator that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As previously mentioned, CDL training is only about one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it’s imperative that the West Point AR school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an 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 working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few West Point AR employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other West Point AR area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Enrolling in a Truck Driving School near West Point AR?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the West Point Arkansas area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
West Point, Arkansas
David Hamilton, 74, has been mayor "since 1972 except for two years he missed for cancer surgery," according to an article in the Searcy, Arkansas newspaper The Daily Citizen ("Mayors bring politics, leadership to ground level" by Warren Watkins, 27 January 2007). “My great-grandfather landed at West Point in 1865 from a steamboat, and homesteaded 160 acres (0.65 km2) of land by building a log house,” Hamilton said.
As of the census of 2000, there were 164 people, 65 households, and 44 families residing in the town. The population density was 158.3/km² (411.9/mi²). There were 68 housing units at an average density of 65.6/km² (170.8/mi²). The racial makeup of the town was 91.46% White, 3.66% Black or African American, 0.61% Pacific Islander, and 4.27% from two or more races. 6.10% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 65 households out of which 32.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.3% were married couples living together, 15.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.3% were non-families. 26.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.52 and the average family size was 3.14.
Choose the Ideal Trucking School West Point AR
Picking the right truck driver school is an essential first step to launching your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver’s success. But first and foremost, you must get the necessary training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you might want to consider 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 trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It’s your choice. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in West Point AR.
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