How to Pick a Truck Driving School in Massachusetts
Best wishes on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school in Massachusetts. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible job prospects. Whatever your reason is, it’s imperative to obtain the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several variables that you’ll need to examine before making your final selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your home. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the ideal method to make certain you’ll receive the appropriate training. Don’t forget, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver’s license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Will You Require?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully in Massachusetts and within the USA, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The three license classes that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will address Class A and 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). Following are brief descriptions of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL 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. 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 required to operate 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. 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 may also require endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School
Once you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the process of researching the Massachusetts trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can’t be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other factors, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So below are a few additional points that you should research while performing your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many Massachusetts truck driver schools are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more common and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 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 curriculum and training will fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Massachusetts schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school’s history is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won’t provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the industry, 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 make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Massachusetts and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any greater, then students will not be getting the personalized 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 professes it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Massachusetts schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As already mentioned, it’s essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It’s also vital that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors may be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to pay a visit to the Massachusetts school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher’s qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driving school will furnish 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 ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time fluctuates among schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Massachusetts schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It’s possible to receive discounted or even free training from certain Massachusetts truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Massachusetts, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Massachusetts testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As earlier noted, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it’s important that the Massachusetts school you select 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 teacher should be prepared to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you’re still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to start your new career in Massachusetts. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few employers hiring their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed in Massachusetts.
Choose the Right CDL School
Choosing the appropriate truck driver school is an important first step to starting your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. Most importantly, you must receive the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on cash or financing, you may want to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It’s your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Massachusetts.