Coconino Community College hosted a ribbon cutting Monday to commemorate the start of a new commercial driver’s license training program, which comes from a partnership with Phoenix Truck Driving School and is the first CDL program being offered in northern Arizona.
The program at CCC is expected to be similar to others operated by PTDS. It is a 160-hour program, including classroom and hands-on instruction.
The first week of the program is classroom learning in preparation for the permit test. Once students begin consistently getting scores of 90% or higher on practice tests, they go to the DMV to get a Class A permit.
After getting the permit, PTDS owner Rob Spencer said, the rest of the training happens in trucks.
“No video games, no simulators, no TikTok videos, no shortcuts,” he said. “It's all one hundred percent training on the trucks.”
The truck training is divided into three parts: pre-trip safety checks, backing maneuvers and, after about 90 hours in the program, driving a truck in various real-world conditions and settings.
Once a student has experience with all of these steps (about 140 hours into the program, according to Spencer), they then go to take the test for the state CDL. Spencer said 92% of PTDS students pass on either the first or second attempt.
PTDS also has a number of resources to help their students find work after graduating, and Spencer says there were no worries about a shortage of jobs.
“If you look around you,” he said, “everything you see, with the exception, of course, of trees and the bushes, was brought in by trucks.... there's always demand for it.”
According to the American Trucking Association, “trucking is the most common job in 29 states and is responsible for 1 in 16 jobs in the U.S. overall.”
Lisa Black was the first student to sign up for the new program. She currently has a Class C license with hazmat certification but is hoping to learn air-brakes and earn a full Class A license.
Black has been working as a driver on the Navajo and Hopi reservations, but the rising cost of living in Flagstaff made her want to start looking for other options. She began by reaching out to various agencies in the area to see if there were CDL programs nearby.
By chance, it was about the time the CCC program was getting started -- which she learned about from a few different places. Black said Mike Thompson with the Career Center was especially helpful with the application process.
She said she was grateful to be able to complete her CDL in Flagstaff.
“I was stressing about having to drive to Phoenix and other trucking schools,” she said. “They were asking me if I was okay [staying in] hotels with other students. I wasn't sure and I didn’t want to leave my family here. ...I'm a single parent too so I have to be at home so I was kind of stressed about that. Since it's local here it's a lot easier for me."