Adults looking to launch their careers can check out Iowa Western Community College’s CDL training program.
The program launched this fall after several years of planning, said Matt Mancuso, executive director of economic development and workforce.
“It’s been a priority since (President) Dan Kinney arrived,” he said. “When he and I went out and talked to the companies, they were just screaming for the truckers. Shane (Hekter, Logistics and Manufacturing Coordinator) and Brad (Carman, Instructor) figured out how to get this all started with all the regulations.
Additionally, Panama Transfer donated a semi-tractor and trailer, Hekter said.
The five-week course includes some classroom time, some simulator time and lots of driving time, Carman said. Class runs from 8:00 a.m. to about 3:00 p.m. every weekday, and only about an hour a day is class time.
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“The first week we started with the pre-trip inspection,” he said. “The second week, we started to go backwards. Now we are in week three and ready to hit the road.
When students complete the course, they’re ready to test for a Class A CDL, Carman said.
“And we can do that too,” he said. “We have an examiner.”
There are plenty of jobs available, Carman said.
Carman completed a CDL program at Southeast Community College in Lincoln, Nebraska and has been driving ever since — until this fall.
“I thought back when I was in school what a way to retire or get out – teach the next generation,” he said.
There are currently three students in the class, Carman said. Two of them are Council Bluffs public works workers who are expected to earn CDLs.
“That way we can drive dump trucks, plows in the winter, and tractor-trailers to haul stuff,” said Dakota Parks, who started working for the town of Council Bluffs in April. So far he has worked on sewers and street paving and maintenance.
Tim Cash, who started with the city in February, worked on streets, sewers and trees, he said. He said the city would pay for their CDL training on the understanding that they would work for the city for at least five years or reimburse the city for the class.
Both said they plan to work for the city for the rest of their careers.
Parks said shifting was the hardest part of learning to drive a truck.
“I had no experience with manual transmissions,” he said. “Between the instruction and the simulators, they teach you a lot where you can be comfortable backing up or shifting gears.”
The simulators help with backing up, and the instructions say how many RPMs you need to reach before changing gears, Parks said.
Cash said the simulators also have different scenarios, “like driving in the rain.”
The program is limited to four students until the college can acquire more trucks, Hekter said.
“We’re hoping to get a few more trucks on the road, have a fleet of three or four and fill the schedule,” Mancuso said. “It would really help the community too.”