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2016 February 19 - 10:55 pm

Truck Driver Training Gaining Speed at Colleges

Displaced Workers Hitting Open Road for New Careers

DECATUR, Ill. (AP) — After being laid off from his job in March, Christopher Pettyjohn was determined to quickly find another opportunity.

However, he became frustrated after several interviews for jobs didn’t pan out.

Pettyjohn began looking into truck driving after noticing a lot of job openings and was impressed by what he found. He now is able to choose between various job opportunities.

“It’s wide open,” said Pettyjohn, 43. “It’s a career. There’s always going to be something there.”

Before he could get behind the wheel of a truck, Pettyjohn needed training and to begin the process of obtaining a commercial driver’s license, or CDL.

He went to Richland Community College in Decatur, having never been there before and came away grateful for the instruction he received while completing the school’s CDL training program. Pettyjohn obtained a Class A CDL with tanker endorsement.

Richland prepares its students to get a commercial learning permit, or CPL, said John Smith, the college’s truck driving training program coordinator. To start, Smith said students can expect five days in the classroom going through the CDL book, safety compliance and learning about maintaining logs.

They must pass a Department of Transportation certified physical and drug screening before receiving a CPL, he said.

Once they’ve obtained a CPL, the students begin pre-trip inspections and driving instruction with an emphasis on safety, Smith said.

“We’re talking a huge responsibility,” Smith said. “They have to make decisions every minute.”

Richland offers an 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday class that includes three weeks of onthe-road training, Smith said.

Full-time classes are offered every month. In addition, a 5 to 9 p.m. option is available lasting about eight weeks, he said.

Students end up being in demand from businesses interested in hiring them, Smith said.

Recruiters from various companies make presentations to the students participating in the program, Smith said.

In many cases, students can expect at least one letter of acceptance before they graduate as companies pre-hire future drivers, Smith said. The more letters students have, Richland instructor Al Carnahan said they will be able to make a decision to choose the best fit for them.

“You want to make sure to know the carrier you’ re going to work with,” Carnahan said.

He recommends finding out how companies operate to know going into a job things like how long drivers will be required to be away from home.

Archer Daniels Midland Co. is looking for its job candidates to have a clean driving record and be at least 21 years old, said Debbie Sarko, hiring manager for ADM’s Decatur trucking terminal.

In an effort to meet the demand for drivers, Sarko said the company changed its policy to hire drivers straight out of school rather than require a year or two of experience. That doesn’t mean they’ve become a truck driver just yet as ADM requires another nine-week training program, she said.

Sarko said experience sometimes means bad habits that are hard to eliminate.

“We can bring them up the ADM way,” Sarko said. “They don’t know any different.”

Sarko expects the driver shortage to continue, as is projected throughout the industry. She hopes ADM can be an attractive place to look for employment.

“We make it a career, not just a job,” Sarko said. “They walk in with their uniform on, and they’re proud to work for us.”

Its drivers can be home every night, Sarko said. Plus, she said drivers are offered insurance and a good paycheck.

Pettyjohn realizes he found a fulfilling a career choice, one that will continue to serve the needs of businesses across the country.

“If it weren’t for trucks, a lot wouldn’t be here,” Pettyjohn said.

Smith said opportunities are available not just for driving tractor trailers but for those who obtain different classifications such as Class B commercial driver training.

Drivers with a Class B certification can operate commercial motor vehicles such as garbage trucks and delivery vehicles for companies such as UPS and FedEx.

Source: (Decatur) Herald & Review, http://bit.ly/1ZbCpYR

Also from CHRIS LUSVARDI, (Decatur) Herald & Review

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