Training Successful Big Rig Drivers

Over 3.5 million professional trucks drivers accounted for 70 percent of the nation’s domestic freight tonnage in 2015, collecting $726 billion in gross freight revenues, according to a recent analysis published by the American Trucking Association. However, even with these record-setting numbers, there is still one problem facing the industry; professional trucking companies do not have enough qualified drivers to meet their growing demand.

Donnie Tulk, Coordinator for Tulsa Tech’s Professional Truck Driving Training Program, has spent over 30 years in the industry, and says the need for professional drivers is projected to rise dramatically during the next decade.

“Currently, there is a shortage of approximately 48,000 drivers in the U.S.,” Tulk said. “And by the end 2025, that number is estimated to be approximately 174,000 drivers, mostly due to the fact the median age for drivers today is 55.”

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David Thompson, a student in the program, and a former electrician, is working toward his commercial driver’s license (CDL), along with additional credentials and endorsements, providing him with even more opportunities to help fill the void currently facing this rapidly growing industry.

“I had been doing electrical work for several years, then I became interested in truck driving,” Thompson said. “Once I complete the program I would like to be a regional, or dedicated driver, which would allow me to still be home most weekends with my family.”

Tony Bottoms, Tulsa Tech Instructor for the program, with over 15 years of industry experience, feels the time is right for those interested in this fast-growing career field.

“There are many options available for individuals who wish to work in this career field,” Bottoms said. “Everything from the premium pay types of jobs, associated with long-haul or over-the-road drivers, to regional or dedicated driving opportunities, which offer more flexible schedules for the driver.”

Ja’net Leath, an Air Force veteran and mother of 3, feels the timing is right too, and is excited to begin the next chapter of her life, along with her new career.

“My children are grown and I feel like this is the next step,” Leath said. “My goal is to become an over-the-road driver, to cover the lower 48 states, and see different parts of the country while I’m earning a great living.”

Although some driver training programs are much shorter, and only work to prepare students for the CDL exam. Tulsa Tech’s Professional Truck Driving Training Program was developed with input from our industry partners.

“We intentionally designed this program to exceed minimal regulations,” Tulk said. “And we adjusted our curriculum in response to the valuable input we have received from our many industry partners. They indicated a need for individuals with much more experience, than say, minimal entry-level driving skills, and they are seeking drivers who have more knowledge about industry regulations, trip planning, and a better understanding of the overall industry.”

The 600-hour program is divided into three courses, Entry Level Driver, Skills and Regulations, and Specialist Driver, with the latter giving students a unique opportunity to earn additional endorsements, or credentials, in order to transport more specialized loads. After 360 hours, students may opt to intern with one of our industry partners, with the remaining hours of the course structured as on-the-job-training.

If you’re currently looking for exciting classes for high school and adult students, quality customized corporate training, or wish to start driving toward a new career, Tulsa Tech invites you to visit today. For more information, please call 918-828-5000 or visit us online at tulsatech.edu.

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