TBCC’s Truck Driving School is Cruising Along – Helping to Fill Critical Jobs with Trained Drivers

EDITOR’S NOTE: In honor of Labor day, we want to highlight the role of truck drivers that are crucial to our distribution systems. There is a nationwide shortage of licensed commercial truck drivers, and it’s regularly impacted deliveries here on the North Oregon Coast. Nearly EVERY business relies on trucks to bring goods or to take goods to the valley. TBCC’s truck driving school is an important tool for economic development in Tillamook County and vital to our sustainability and resiliency as a community.

Story & Photos By Don Backman
Have you ever wondered what it takes to drive a loaded log truck or take a big semi with trailers down the highway? Have you seen the TBCC drivers training truck going through town and wondered how to find out about the program? If so, you are in luck. Tillamook Bay Community College’s highly successful Truck Driver Training – CDL Test Preparation program for Class A CDL’s is a proven local option.

Started in 2018, TBCC’s Truck Driver Training – Commercial Drivers License Test Preparation Program has earned a success rate to be proud of. 98% of those who completed the program went on to attain their Class A Commercial Drivers License. Currently, students are finding truck driving jobs almost as soon as they get their CDL. Demand for drivers is so high that trucking and construction companies are contacting TBCC before the classes even finish. The State of Oregon Employment Department’s database identified 627 openings for heavy truck drivers as of August 30, 2021. Demand is projected to increase 9.1% over the next ten years.

Initially serving just the Tillamook County area, the program has also partnered with Clatsop Community College and Oregon Coast Community College to provide CDL training to students from Astoria to Newport, Oregon. “We had a student who was willing to stay in a tent for four weeks,” JoAnn Critelli, Community & Continuing Education Coordinator, and the CDL Program Coordinator for TBCC reported. “Our students are motivated.”

The CDL program enables drivers to learn the skills required both to pass the CDL Skills test at the Department of Motor Vehicles, but they also learn manual transmission skills which are in demand in the logging industry. “Some programs just teach automatic transmission,” Critelli explained. “We offer the manual transmission because that way our drivers can drive both manual and automatic.”

The truck driver training program recently used grant funding from the Oregon Business Development Department to install the TBCC truck driving simulator in a cargo trailer. It is mobile and can be towed to work sites where employers can train employees in specific driving scenarios or have their driving skills sharpened. The simulator can provide a wide variety of driving conditions such as winter roads and other challenges which are found here in the Pacific Northwest. And it is not just for heavy truck drivers, it can simulate driving many other vehicles, too, such as school buses, firetrucks, log trucks, tankers including milk trucks, and snowplows. The New Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) features simulate the safety technology available in newer trucks. Critelli explains that the possibilities are endless.

Travis Turner takes the truck out on the road.
Travis Turner is one of three drivers enrolled in the August and September four-week truck driver training class. Turner enjoyed training in the simulator. “It is like a giant video game, almost, but realistic,” he said. “It was a lot different than I expected.” When asked why he enrolled in the program, Turner explained that he wanted to expand his skills and because he enjoys driving. His calmness belied his excitement as he drove first, and steered the truck out of the lot and onto the road.

Bret Rivenes inspecting the breaks.
The students practice in the simulator before taking their first turn driving. Once completed, they are ready for the road. “Today they will drive around the port area,” Bret Rivenes, the driving instructor, said, pointing out the roads next to the blimp hangar. The goal was to get them ready to start their over-the-road training. The truck was parked in an empty gravel lot, and Bret had placed cones out so the students could practice driving skills. Rivenes ensures the students have all the skills they need to pass their CDL driving test. “I get them ready,” he explained with quiet confidence.

The truck driving program is limited to 4 students during each session. The program requires 160 hours of training, with 40 hours in the classroom with an online assessment to ensure students pass at 80%. Next, they have 120 hours of behind-the-wheel training which includes a driving range and also on the road training.

The program is popular, Critelli explained. “One married couple took the class because they wanted to drive together on long haul routes,” she said. Anyone who is interested needs to contact her at TBCC, at 503-842-8222 x 1320 or joanncritelli@tillamookbaycc.edu. They can also find a CDL training program application online at www.tillamookbaycc.edu under the Community & Workforce Training tab.

“I can email them an application or they may call and make an appointment to meet with me and fill out an application,” Critelli explained. “We will discuss all the funding options available at that time.” In addition, “Students need to have their CDL learner permit before class begins,” she said. “We provide an online study resource that gives them a very good chance to pass the permit test with DMV. It has been very effective.”

The program requires four weeks of training which includes classroom, time in the state-of-the-art truck driving simulator, and on the road driving. The program costs $5,000 plus additional fees associated with a CDL license (approximately $460). There are grants, loans, and scholarships available to help cover the cost. TBCC also offers a one-week CDL refresher course for those who are returning to a career as a truck driver.

TBCC’s Truck Driver Training – CDL Test Preparation Program provides a good local option for those who are wanting to get a Class A CDL so they can drive trucks. It has a very high success rate and has changed lives. If you are interested in learning more, contact JoAnn Critelli at TBCC, joanncritelli@tillamookbaycc.edu.
Here’s more information – https://tillamookbaycc.edu/commercial-truck-driving-cdl/