Truck Driver Training Schools Receiving PTDI Certification Exemplify Diversity and Concern for Quality Nationwide


Alexandria, Virginia:

Six truck driver training schools from Washington to Virginia recently received certification and recertification of their courses from the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). The courses are offered at varying venues, from publicly-funded colleges to a small, family-run private school, to an entry-level truck driving company, reflecting the diversity of the programs and students enrolled nationwide in PTDI-certified courses.

Bates Technical College, a two-year institution that has offered truck driver training for more than 20 years, is one example of how diverse the population of PTDI-trained drivers has become. Located in Tacoma, Washington, Bates educates potential drivers ranging in age from 20s to 50s, and has a balanced female to male ratio. Some are students seeking a new career in mid-life, while others are unemployed and desiring a stable job. Some have arrived from countries such as the Ukraine needing ESL courses, which they can obtain through the college.

The majority of students come from a 200 mile range. “Some drive 60 to 70 miles per day to get here,” said Kris Manning, executive dean of instruction. One reason for the attraction may be that Bates is the only school in the area with PTDI course certification.

“We look at anything we can do to put an added value piece in our program, and, of course, PTDI was a perfect fit,” said Manning. But the best advertisement, he said, is former students. “They come back and speak to the classroom. They will drive their rigs right up here, and tell the students how great it is.”

Even a small school like Southern Missouri Truck Driving School benefits from PTDI certification. This family-owned business, with only four full-time instructors and one part-time, received its first PTDI course certification in 1999, after only two years in operation. “When potential students come in here, I try to show them the benefits of getting quality training even if it may take a couple of weeks longer,” said Regina McClendon, Administrator of Office & Classroom. “When talking to students, I use an article I read in Trucker magazine that reported a lower percentage of truck drivers succeed when they aren’t trained properly. We try to introduce our students to every situation or experience they may come across to prepare them, from the simplest things like pulling up to get fuel.

“A graduate of a quick program may get scared in a situation he doesn’t know how to handle and may not go back to trucking. The trucking industry won’t hold your hand when you’re out there, but we give them as much as we can to help them along the way.”

Also recognizing the need for proper training in the industry, Don Hess, director, Transportation & Public Safety Programs at John Wood Community College, in Quincy, Illinois, made arrangements for the small truck-driver training program to apply for PTDI certification as soon as he came on board in 1994. “The first direct benefit of PTDI certification is to the student,” said Hess. “It’s an assurance that they are indeed getting the proper training. For the unsuspecting student, there are a lot of fast talkers out there, but when students see the PTDI stamp of certification, they can be sure that the program has been checked out thoroughly by an outside and completely objective agency and found to meet quality training. I’m a firm believer in PTDI and have been on the board for years.”

While Southern Missouri and John Wood Community College graduate only about 90 students on average, others such as Bates and Iowa Central Community College graduate more than 150 per year. The one characteristic all these schools have in common-their commitment to safety and high-quality training. In fact, some programs exceed the amount of hours PTDI requires and have lengthened their curriculum as a result of their dedication.

Bates’ truck driver program, for example, is over 700 hours. Iowa Central Community College increased its hours, from its initial 150 hours in 1971 to its current 600 hours, which includes on-the-job training. “We exceed those requirements because we want to make sure that we meet the needs of the industry and the people we serve,” said Jeff Frank, director of the program.

Located in Fort Dodge, Iowa Central Community College serves nine counties in an area of the state that is the most populated with trucking opportunities. “We have national motor carriers in our back door and we are focused on building relationships with these carriers. It’s our mission to serve them,” said Frank, adding that more carriers are requesting PTDI certification.

At Iowa Central, students are pre-approved for hire by the carrier on the condition they successfully complete the program. “We work hard on getting people prequalified,” Frank said. “We like to put the cart before the horse, because the student’s focus is much better if he or she is not concerned about getting a job.”

As one of the largest trucking employers, Swift Transportation opened Swift Driving Academies to ensure it supplies properly trained drivers to its companies. “There’s nothing else out there like PTDI,” said Tim McLain, national director for Swift Transportation. Two Swift Driving Academies, located in San Antonio, Texas, and in Richmond, Virginia, have just received initial certification, representing the fourth and fifth Swift locations to certify their courses. McLain said the company plans to obtain PTDI course certification for all of its academies nationwide.