How to Decide on the Right Trucker Classes near Westfield Massachusetts
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Westfield MA. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible work opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it’s imperative to obtain the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of variables that you’ll want to consider prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Westfield home. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based only on price is not the optimal method to make sure you’ll get the appropriate training. Don’t forget, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Westfield MA, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 license classes that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will focus on Class A and B licenses. What differentiates 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 CDL is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Some of the vehicles that drivers may be able to operate 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 operators may be qualified to drive 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 specific types of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Assess a CDL School
Once you have determined which CDL you want to pursue, you can start the undertaking of researching the Westfield MA truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can’t be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other factors, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are several additional points that you should research while conducting your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Westfield MA area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, 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 several advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual 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 training and curriculum will fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Westfield MA schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also find out what the school’s track record is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won’t supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to check with the Massachusetts licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Massachusetts and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it’s any greater, then students will not be getting the personalized instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that insists it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Westfield MA schools provide training programs that range from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As already mentioned, it’s imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It’s also crucial that the teachers keep up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to check out the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher’s qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will provide lots of 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 driving a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time varies among schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Westfield MA schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get free or discounted training from certain truck driving schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific 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 associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Westfield MA schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Massachusetts, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Massachusetts testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As formerly noted, truck driver training is only about one to two months in length. With such a short term, it’s essential that the Westfield 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 teacher should be willing to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you’re still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Westfield MA employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Westfield MA area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.
Class A CDL Training Westfield Massachusetts
Choosing the ideal truck driver school is a critical first step to beginning your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets 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 crucial to a new driver’s success. You originally came to our website because of your interest in Class A CDL Training and wanting information on the topic Getting A CDL License. However, you must obtain the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you may want to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent CDL 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 no matter how you get your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Westfield MA.
Truck On in These Other Massachusetts Locations
Westfield is a city in Hampden County, in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts, United States. Westfield was first settled in 1660. It is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 41,094 at the 2010 census.
The area was originally inhabited by the Pocomtuc tribe, and was called Woronoco (meaning "the winding land"). Trading houses were built in 1639–40 by settlers from the Connecticut Colony. Massachusetts asserted jurisdiction, and prevailed after a boundary survey. In 1647, Massachusetts made Woronoco part of Springfield. Land was incrementally purchased from the Native Americans and granted by the Springfield town meeting to English settlers, beginning in 1658. The area of Woronoco or "Streamfield" began to be permanently settled in the 1660s. In 1669, "Westfield" was incorporated as an independent town; in 1920, it would be re-incorporated as a city. The name Westfield would be named for being at the time the most westerly settlement. "Streamfield" was considered a name for the town for being settled in between two "streams" that flow downtown, the Westfield River and the Little River.
From its founding until 1725, Westfield was the westernmost settlement in the Massachusetts Colony, and portions of it fell within the Equivalent Lands. Town meetings were held in a church meeting house until 1839, when Town Hall was erected on Broad Street. This building also served as City Hall from 1920 to 1958. Due to its alluvial lands, the inhabitants of the Westfield area were entirely devoted to agricultural pursuits for about 150 years.
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