Truck drivers are an essential part of what keeps America moving. Nearly every product that is sold and bought has been transported at some point via a commercial truck. Despite the big demand for experienced truckers, there is a nationwide shortage of people willing to take charge behind the wheel.
To fill that gap, Hopkinsville Community College (HCC) offers truck driver training, as a certificate program. The intent is to train students with little to no commercial driving experience and prepare them for a high-demand job. The four-week, entry-level course prepares students for the trucking industry. It teaches students to drive tractor trailer trucks, apply their knowledge of commercial driving regulations, prepare receipts for loads, maintain truck logs in accordance with state and federal guidelines, inspect the truck and equipment as well as load and unload. Most importantly, the program teaches students how to be safe and reliable drivers.
The course is designed to help the students acquire their Kentucky CDL-A learner’s permit during the first week of class. Once students receive their permit, they are ready to transition to the range to begin training for their driver’s license exams and eventually earn their CDL-A license. Nearly 700 students have been trained in CDL through HCC since 2013. The mission of the program is to provide a successful transition into a rewarding career in transportation. The accelerated and accredited program offers six credit hours, a TRU100 certificate and job placement assistance.
HCC holds monthly CDL classes, January through November, and students receive DOT physicals and drug screenings prior to enrollment into the course. The curriculum for the program is broken into 40 hours of classroom instruction and 120 hours of range and over-the-road training to fulfill the 160-hour requirement. It qualifies for several financial options open to students who need assistance with the fee, such as WIA program, Kentucky Farm Worker programs, Montgomery GI Bill or Post 9/11 funds, Vocational Rehabilitation program or WorkReady Kentucky scholarships. HCC’s CDL program follows the state requirements for CDL permit holders such as age, ability to read, write and speak English, having a valid driver’s license and being able to pass a DOT physical and drug screening test.
Through partnerships with Kentucky Trucking Association and the New Driver Coalition, HCC’s CDL program has continued to grow. Most importantly, HCC has continued to focus on improving training by bringing the program under the college’s umbrella of certificate programs and offering it in-house and not through a third-party provider. HCC hires qualified program instructors and staff and operates with equipment donated from several trucking association partners.
In 2017, Hopkinsville Community College entered into an agreement with Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to train military service members in commercial trucking. The Army’s program is known as the Career Skills Program and their role is to assist service members in acquiring work-ready skills to join the civilian workforce once their military service is complete. About 85% of HCC’s CDL classes are comprised of active-duty service members or veterans. At least 95% of HCC students go to direct employment once they receive their CDL and the course pass rate is 97.5%.
HCC partners with several trucking companies that hire entry-level drivers. Recruiters can meet with the students during class to provide their company information and how to apply with the organization. Class sizes are restricted due to the current pandemic. Students and instructors adhere to social distancing guidelines, are required to wear masks during training and practice good hygiene.
HCC is part of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System which is made up of 16 colleges. Thirteen of those colleges offer CDL training through their own programs and one college uses a third-party vendor for the training.