Commercial Driver Education in Arkansas
Arkansas, aptly named the “Natural State," boasts endless miles of beautiful landscapes for you to enjoy. Wouldn't you like to get paid to travel the state, with the open road and great outdoors as your office space?
This can all become a reality if you decide to apply for an Arkansas commercial driver's license (CDL).
If you want to drive a commercial vehicle, you'll first have to learn a whole new set of safety and driving skills.
The Arkansas Driver Services administers a series of CDL exams to test your knowledge and abilities when it comes to driving a commercial vehicle. Only certain CDL applicants are currently required to enroll in commercial driver education in order to take and pass these tests.
Whether it's mandatory for you or not, taking a CDL course can really increase your chances of being able to pass the CDL exams on your first attempt.
IMPORTANT FEDERAL TRAINING REQUIREMENTS UPDATE
Per new federal entry-level driver training requirements effective February 7, 2022, the Arkansas Driver Services now mandates new CDL applicants complete an entry-level driver training course through an authorized provider. You’ll need to complete this training prior to applying for your first commercial driver’s license, upgrading your existing CDL class, or applying for a HAZMAT, school bus, or passenger endorsement.
Arkansas CDL Education Requirements
As previously mentioned, only certain CDL applicants currently have to take commercial driver training courses. This will become mandatory for all CDL applicants beginning on February 7, 2022.
School Bus Drivers
If you're applying to become a school bus driver, in addition to a school bus (S) endorsement* on your commercial driver's license, you will also need to apply for a school bus driver certification.
You will need to go through specific training BEFORE obtaining that certification to allow you to legally drive a school bus.
You are state-required to:
- Receive a minimum of 24 hours of behind-the-wheel CDL training from your school district.
- Receive another 3 hours of annual in-service training once you've earned your certification.
Your school bus certificate will be valid for 1 year, after which you can renew after you complete the annual 3 hours of in-service refresher training.
Contact your local Driver Services licensing office for more information on school bus driver training.
* You are not state-required to enroll in CDL training for your school bus endorsement.
All Other CDL Applicants
For all other CDL applicants, taking commercial Driver's Ed is optional, but should still be considered a valuable resource when preparing for your commercial driver exams.
The tests that all commercial driver license applicants are required to take are:
- Written general knowledge test.
- Behind-the-wheel CDL skills test.
Depending on your CDL's classification and endorsement(s), you could also have to take additional CDL exams.
As you start to prepare for the commercial driver's license testing process, first make sure that you know exactly which classification and endorsement(s) apply to your desired Arkansas CDL.
For more information on CDL classifications and endorsements, refer to the following guides:
Choosing an AR CDL Test Prep Course
As mentioned above, the Arkansas Driver Services only requires prospective school bus drivers to enroll in CDL training and in-service refresher courses while applying for their school bus certification.
For all other CDL applicants, commercial driver education is optional, but a great means of preparing for the required CDL written and road tests.
Enrolling in a classroom course will familiarize you with the format and topics on the CDL written exam(s).
Taking a behind-the-wheel class will prepare you for the Arkansas CDL road test and get you comfortable driving your commercial vehicle of choice.
The important questions to ask about the commercial driver education courses you're considering are as follows:
- Do the tuition and course length both make sense for your budget and schedule?
- Are the classes taught by certified instructors who hold valid commercial driver's licenses?
- Does the program's curriculum cover all of the topics and skills you'll need to master for your particular CDL written and road exams?
Arkansas CDL Course Curriculum
When selecting a CDL classroom course, look at the curriculum and make sure that the class will at least cover the topics you'll be expected to know for the written general knowledge test.
Some of these topics include subjects like:
- Conducting a vehicle inspection.
- Performing basic driving maneuvers (e.g. accelerating and backing up).
- Communicating and sharing the road with other vehicles.
- Controlling vehicle speed in hazardous situations like:
- Bad weather.
- Sharp turns.
- Heavy traffic.
- Slippery roads.
- Legally proceeding through railroad crossings.
- The risks of distracted and impaired driving.
- Handling emergencies and accidents.
Additional CDL Written Test Requirements
As stated before, the Arkansas Driver Services could require you to take additional written tests if the classification and/or endorsement(s) on your desired CDL calls for it.
The other commercial driver written tests you could have to pass include:
- Driving a combination vehicle.
- Legal transport of hazardous materials.
- Hauling liquid or gas-filled tankers.
- Pulling double or triple trailers.
- Transporting passengers.
- Using air brakes.
When you're comfortable with all of the topics pertaining to your particular commercial driver's license, schedule a written test appointment at an approved CDL testing location.
Road Test Prep for AR CDLs
When you pass all of the required written CDL exams, you'll be given a commercial learner's permit (CLP) so that you can begin your behind-the-wheel training.
During the time you have to practice on the road with your CLP, look into taking a behind-the-wheel CDL training course. These programs are designed specifically to help you ace the Driver Services' CDL road test.
When looking at your behind-the-wheel education options, make sure that you'll minimally be taught the following skills, which will be on your CDL skills road exam:
- Pre-trip vehicle inspection of internal and external components.
- Ability to execute basic vehicle maneuvers (e.g. parallel parking and docking in an alley).
- Merging lanes and turning.
- Safely driving through intersections and railroad crossings.
- Entering and exiting the flow of moving traffic.
IMPORTANT: While federal law requires you to carry your CLP for a minimum of 14 days before taking the commercial driver road test, the waiting period in Arkansas may be different. Contact your local licensing office for details on how long you must hold your permit before testing for your Arkansas CDL.
Additional CDL Road Test Material
Similar to the commercial driver written tests, you might be expected to learn additional skills for your Arkansas CDL road test, depending on your CDL's classification and endorsement(s).
If necessary, make sure that the behind-the-wheel program that you choose teaches all of the skills your CDL road exam will call for.
Additional behind-the-wheel material you could have to learn includes:
- Extended pre-trip vehicle inspection for buses and trailers.
- Shifting gears with a manual transmission,
- Checking that your air brakes function properly.
When you feel completely confident behind-the-wheel of a commercial vehicle, schedule a road test appointment at an approved Arkansas CDL testing location.
Study on Your Own for an AR CDL
As long as you're not applying to be a school bus driver, commercial driver education is optional for you.
So, if the pricing or course length of CDL training programs just seem like they'd be too much of a stressor on your budget and schedule, that's okay. With the right amount of discipline and determination, you can study for your commercial driver exams on your own time.
All of the material that you'll need to master for your written and behind-the-wheel tests can be found in the Arkansas Commercial Driver License Manual. Make sure that as you go through the manual, you read up on all of the sections that pertain to your CDL's classification and endorsement(s).
As an added study tool, you can also take CDL practice tests. Doing so will familiarize you with the format and difficulty of the written CDL exams, as well as show you which parts of the manual might need more studying.