CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The trucking industry is a vital part of shipping across the country, and, locally, in Texas.
“A lot of people don’t realize the trucking industry is huge. Just in the state of Texas, one out of every 16 people is in the trucking industry in some capacity. 85% of all commodities are needed to travel by truck,” said Del Mar College Director of Transportation Training Services John Rojas.
DMC offers a transportation training course, where students can earn a Commercial Driver’s License in about four weeks (10 weeks for students taking classes at night). The class is available to anyone 18 years old or older with a valid Texas driver’s license who can pass a DOT physical and drug screening.
“If you can meet those requirements, you can earn your CDL, and be on your way to a career that has great benefits,” Rojas said.
Students will work with instructors who have real-world experience, such as DMC Asst. Director of Transportation Training Services Lynette Cervantes. Cervantes is not only a former driver who drove in 48 states and Canada, she and her husband owned their own truck. She's also a former DMC student.
“When I first introduce myself to the students, I can say 'I’ve been right where you are now. I’ve been that scared person who’s not been anywhere near a truck. I made it, if I can do it, you can do it,' ” Cervantes said.
She also stressed the importance of the trucking industry, and how it affects everyone in nearly everything they experience.
“If you eat it, have it, wear it, live in it, it all came in a truck at one point in time,” she said.
Before ever getting behind the wheel of a vehicle, the students must first go through a theory portion of the class, where they learn about laws and regulations they have to follow, as well as the importance of managing their trucks.
After that, they practice driving on a state-of-the-art simulator, where instructors can control conditions.
The students then practice with a truck in a parking lot at the college, before taking the truck on the road.
Some students take the course when they’re young, as they’re able to earn good money at an entry level; some transition to the industry after working in another field.
“I’m in oil and gas, and there’s a lot of ups and downs, so I wanted to pursue my career with something that’s always available and always going to be there,” said current student Raymond Gonzales.
“I’ve been a pipe fitter for over 10 years, and I just needed to see if I could do something different," said Noe Garza, another student. "I’ve always wanted to be a truck driver, but this is the first chance I’ve gotten to follow that little dream that I had.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for truck drivers across the country.
“All of our local and national carriers need drivers, and they have trucks parked in their parking lots,” Rojas said. “These carriers have found it hard to get qualified drivers, so they really concentrate on schools that have an excellent curriculum, and meet federal guidelines.”
The training courses at DMC are high in demand. Currently, the next available opening for the course is Nov. 8, for daytime learning. Rojas said the program is already booking for February night classes.
“It’s a great time to join the industry, we’re doing everything in our power to help our community out, and the folks who want to enter the trucking industry,” he said.