“This is the last day of class and they’re competing against each other to see who can maneuver the truck the closest [to a series of parking cones] and be in control of the tractor and the trailer from both points,” program director Ray Puckett said.
He explained while the program may appear to be short in length, students get well-rounded training for when it’s time to hit the road.
“They start out in the classroom for 10 days, advance on the 11th day to driving for 27 days. After we give them their state [commercial driver’s license] test and they’ve obtained the class A [license], then [the rodeo] is the celebration,” Puckett said. “It measures their skills in terms of what they’ve learned out here in the field.”
He said the program averages about 22 students per session, but can host up to 24. He added that the number of employers seeking commercial truck drivers outweighs the number of people who complete the program.
“I literally have 100-plus companies seeking my students now for employment. They can literally go through school in seven-and-a-half weeks and enter into this industry earing a salary of around $50,000 in their first year,” Puckett said. “If they want something quick, commercial truck driving is certainly that.”
He said the next session will begin July 8 and there is a waiting list. The following session will begin in September.
Student Bret Hash said he’s looking forward to beginning a second career in commercial truck driving.
“I have some family members who are truck drivers and so I thought I’d give it a try,” Hash said.
He said one of the more difficult aspects of the program has been learning how to precisely maneuver the large vehicles in smaller areas, especially when there are distracted drivers on the road.
“I’ve learned to keep the vehicle under control while watching what other drivers are doing,” Hash said.
According to www.chattahoocheetech.edu, “To become a professional truck driver, you must have a Class A CDL to operate any combination vehicle with a gross combination weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds, with the trailer or trailers having a GVWR of 10,001 or more pounds. A CDL is required for any vehicle, regardless of weight, that will transport quantities of hazardous materials that require DOT warning placards to be displayed. Commercial Truck Driving is a great career choice that will demand constant safety awareness and professional operating skills. The Federal Motor Carrier Administration regulates the safety of the trucking industry and requires drivers to take their personal responsibility very seriously.”
For more information on the program, visit the college’s website or call 770-975-4000.