How to Select a Trucking School near Westminster Massachusetts
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Westminster MA. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good income and flexible work opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it’s essential to receive the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several variables that you’ll want to examine prior to making your final choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Westminster residence. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based only on price is not the best means to ensure you’ll obtain the appropriate education. Just remember, your objective is to master 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 choose a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver’s license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Westminster MA, a driver must obtain 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 subject of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will focus on Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as 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 CDL is required to drive 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 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. Several 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 might also need endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Research a Trucking School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can start the process of evaluating the Westminster MA truck driver schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can’t be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other factors, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So following are a few more things that you need to research while performing your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Westminster MA area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given 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 program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help measure the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Westminster MA schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school’s track record is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won’t supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn’t hurt to get in touch with the Massachusetts licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Massachusetts and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it’s any greater, then students will not be getting the individual instruction 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 claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Westminster MA schools provide training programs that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it’s essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also crucial that the instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a bit more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the best method is to check out the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher’s ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driver school will provide plenty of driving time to its students. Besides, 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 substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time differs between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Westminster MA schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It’s possible to get discounted or even free training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining relationships with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Westminster MA schools you are considering are independent or captive 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 grads. If onsite testing is available in Massachusetts, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at Massachusetts testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As formerly mentioned, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it’s important that the Westminster MA 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 willing to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you’re still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have acquired your commercial driver’s license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Westminster MA employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Westminster MA area vocational or trade 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 a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enrolling in a Truck Driving School near Westminster MA?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Westminster Massachusetts area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
The town achieved national news in November 2014 when the Board of Health proposed banning all sales of tobacco. The meeting between the Board of Health and concerned citizens did not go well with citizens raising objections to the governmental over-reach.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 37.3 square miles (97 km2), of which 35.5 square miles (92 km2) is land and 1.8 square miles (4.7 km2), or 4.90%, is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 6,907 people, 2,529 households, and 1,954 families residing in the town. The population density was 194.5 people per square mile (75.1/km²). There were 2,694 housing units at an average density of 75.9 per square mile (29.3/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 97.50% White, 0.46% African American, 0.14% Native American, 1.14% Asian, 0.14% from other races, and 0.61% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.11% of the population. 17.6% were of French, 15.0% Irish, 13.2% French Canadian, 9.0% English, 9.0% Italian, 8.5% Finnish and 5.6% American ancestry according to Census 2000.
Pick the Right Truck Driver School Westminster MA
Picking the ideal truck driver school is an essential first step to launching your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver’s success. Most importantly, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you may want to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent CDL school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It’s your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Westminster MA.
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