Truck Driver Training: Fill Your Brain and Your Wallet

Over 2,000 students have earned their class “A” commercial driver’s license, CDL, through Illinois Valley Community College’s Truck Driver Training, TDT, since the program opened in 2000.

The CDL comes with all endorsements as students experience behind-the-wheel training as well as log book, map reading, backing, shifting and maneuvering skills—competencies that allow them to obtain entry-level employment in the industry. IVCC also provides lifetime placement assistance.

TDT administrative assistant Mary Beth Liss said, “Students shouldn’t let not knowing how to drive a manual transmission hinder them from taking the program. About 25 percent of our students have never driven a manual transmission. Our instructors are happy to teach them.”

TDT program coordinator Bruce Hartman said, “People also think if they get their CDL, they may have to travel and be gone from home for long periods of time. This is incorrect as we have many local jobs. In fact, we currently have information on over 20 local jobs and about 50 regional and over-the-road jobs.

And veterans who take advantage of the Illinois Veterans Grant or Post 911 benefits have all but $237 of their tuition paid.

 Industry publication “Transport Topics” recently reported big truck sales soared 133 percent over last year due to a booming economy.

“This should mean many more opportunities for our students for years to come,” said Hartman.

IVCC TDT graduates currently fill six-of-eight driver positions at “R” Delivery, Inc. in Leland. These positions are mostly local but offer some regional routes.

“R” Delivery President and part-owner Brad Riskedal said, “IVCC graduates are courteous with a strong attention to detail, promoting safety in the workplace and care with the customers’ products. Day-in and day-out, they do quality work. 

“I recommend IVCC’s TDT program regularly. We have been hiring graduates for about 18 years. Bruce Hartman and his team teach the skill, the detail and the importance of safety in every move that drivers encounter daily. That makes local companies stronger and is integral to a strong local business community.”

This fall, IVCC will offer the 10-credit Truck Driver Training course from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday
beginning Sept. 24. The four-week, 160-hour program combines classroom presentation and hands-on experience
leading to a CDL.

Evening classes are 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday for six weeks beginning Oct. 8 and CDL Refresher classes are available for drivers who need to update their skills.

The average age of students in IVCC’s program is 40, and the oldest student was 72. The minimum age is 18 and there are no prerequisites or prior experience required; financial aid is available.

After careers in banking and as an entrepreneur, TDT student Susan Olsen of Sandwich decided to pursue a career as a truck driver.

“The expectation of an immediate job after four weeks of training and knowing the kind of money that can be made along with the fact, traveling would offer me a sense of freedom and afford me some financial security at this point in my life.”

She started her research into all the different options for learning to drive a truck in December of 2017.

“No other school or contractual training program appealed to me. I wanted to be free and clear of any obligations and pick my own job. My interview with IVCC was the end of my search and I was immediately impressed by the cleanliness and the professionalism at IVCC.”

She added, “Bruce [Hartman] was very kind, honest and genuine and took the time to answer all of my questions
respectfully. He explained to me the challenges I would encounter and what to expect in the TDT class and in the
trucking business.”

Olsen made the decision to enroll that same day: “Mary Beth took me through the registration process and made sure everything was in order. It was the simplest process ever.”

Aside from her long commute to class each day, she had only good things to say about IVCC’s program.

“It is well organized with knowledgeable trainers who have impressive teaching approaches. They provide detailed instruction of driving a truck safely and any questions, regrets or comments are always welcomed by Bruce.”

Her favorite part of the program is her trainer Tony Mertes’ approach to the pre-trip inspection. “His sequencing and attention to detail, along with visuals,helped me nail the pre-trip testing at the DMV.”

Olsen said, “Getting into an unusual profession for a woman and taking my age into account, I aced the classroom part and did well on the pre-trip. Learning the clutching, shifting and timing was the challenge but I got my CDL-A license on the first try!”

Olsen had many proud moments in the program. “The first time I got into IVCC’s 18-wheeler and backed up in a straight line I was impressed with myself.

Olsen recommends the program. “New or prospective students should do it. However, they should be specific
about where they want the career to take them. To paraphrase Tony, ‘Don’t settle for mediocre, go for the gold in
your wallet.’”

Her summer of training is over and she already has a job lined up. She said,“It was a grueling schedule and a long drive in, but worth the trip.” For information, call Hartman at (815) 224-0266.