Students explore trucking careers

Published 2:10 am Saturday, September 10, 2011

Straughn High School JAG students learned Friday that with a less than a month of training, they can make upward of $30,000 a year.

William Hawkins, CDL instructor for LBW Community College’s MacArthur Campus, spent Friday afternoon speaking to students about job potential in the over-the-road trucking industry.

Hawkins told students that an entry-level driver can make $30,000 a year, traveling some 2,000 miles a week and only working four days.

“You can make that kind of money with very little effort,” he said.

Truck drivers who drive 3,000 miles a week make nearly $50,000 a year, he said.

“But you’re on the road a lot,” he said. “It takes you away from your family. So truck driving is not for everyone.”

Students learned they were eligible to take the test for Class B CDLs at age 19 and can only drive in-state and operate vehicles such as straight trucks, dump trucks and buses if they have a passenger endorsement.

Class A CDLs are available for those 21 and older, which allows them to drive tractor trailers state-to-state.

Hawkins told students there is current legislation that would cut the number of hours a driver is allowed to drive from 11 to 10, but could also allow drivers to receive a CDL at 18 that would make them eligible to drive in neighboring states only.

Hawkins said the MacArthur Campus program accepts about five students every six weeks for the 24-day program in which students drive 10 hours per day.

Hawkins said more and more women are joining the trucking industry.

“We even get a few women,” he said. “And honestly, the women are better drivers. Women take less chances than guys.”

“Companies are looking for husband and wife teams,” he said.

“It cures a lot of problems, and the company can keep the truck rolling.”

In fact, JAG student Jessica Armendariz said she plans to earn her CDL, saying several of her family members have CDLs and driver tractor trailers.

Additionally, drivers are required to have a state department of transportation physical every two years and be able to speak and read the English language, he said.

Hawkins suggested that anyone interested in joining the transportation business take a few business courses.

“The base of the business is going to operators,” he said. “They contract with a company to carry loads from say, Opp to Montgomery for ‘x’ amount of money. We are seeing more independent owner-operators because you can make more money that way.”

Hawkins said one must have a good understanding of the business world in order to be successful; however, of the half-million trucking companies in the country, the bulk of them are “ma and pa” companies.

SHS Jobs for Alabama’s Graduates teacher Whitney Geohagan said that she uses sessions like Hawkins’ to teach students about career opportunities.

“JAG stresses the importance of career readiness through guest speakers, resume workshops, job shadowing and mock interviews,” she said. “I have a wonderful group of students that are interested in their futures.”