Trucking Leaders Defend Training Program

Article excerpt

It would be a mistake to do away with the truck-driver training program at Central Career Technology Center in Drumright, state trucking officials say.

"It all gets down to the standard," says George Tomek, executive director of the Oklahoma Trucking Association. "We think there is a standard that the industry should set."

Given the size of these vehicles and the fact that they share the roadways with the public, he said that quality training becomes even more important. Tomek said there is a shortage of about 50,000 truck drivers nationwide, which needs to be met by individuals from both public and privately funded sources.

"The main thing is turning out good students," he said.

Tomek said that the Drumright program graduates not only new drivers but provides refresher training, skid control and defensive driver training to about 700 students each year, and has a 97 percent placement rate. It was recently re-certified by the Professional Truck Driver Institute, at Alexandria, Va., which sets industry training standards.

The program is under review due to an interim legislative study requested by Rep. Kevin Calvey, R-Del City, who believes that government may have an unfair advantage over private industry in operating a state-sponsored career and technology education program, including the truck-driving course.

Calvey recently expressed concern to the House Career and Technology Education Committee that the trucker-training program subsidizes at least part of students' full costs, particularly those from out of state.

The four-week program costs $1,295, which Calvey said does not cover the full cost of education. The operator of a private truck- driver training school told the committee that he charges $3,500 in tuition, and that just paying an instructor can cost about $1,600.

Sen. Jim Reynolds, R-OKC, says that out-of-state students at the Drumright facility are generally not charged the additional $800 for nonresidents. He said officials consider them to qualify for lower in-state tuition if their company has any presence in Oklahoma, even though many of their employers reimburse workers for up to $5,000 in tuition.

The panel was also told that about 27 percent of the program's students come from other states, with about 7 percent ultimately going to work for out-of-state trucking companies. …