New CDL program at Somerset CC steering students toward career with huge demand

Kelly Strunk puts the CDL simulator through its paces as program coordinator John Mitchell looked on.

SOMERSET, Ky. — A new four-week Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) program at Somerset Community College is steering students toward a career with huge demand and the potential for a steady paycheck.

Program instructor John Mitchell said that graduates could see immediate results. “There are very good employment possibilities for truck drivers in this area,” he said and notes that “a CDL is a guaranteed paycheck for the rest of your life.”

Classes are held on SCC’s Somerset campus for 10 hours a day, four days a week, for four weeks—160 hours. Forty of the hours are in the classroom and 120 hours are “in the trucks, driving and performing maneuvers,” Mitchell said.

The program, administered through Workforce Solutions, has three trucks. When the course is completed, students will have learned all the necessary skills to take the Class A CDL license test. The evaluation is administered by the Kentucky State Police, and Mitchell says the college is involved throughout the entire process.

The SCC program not only makes the appointment for the driving assessment, but “we actually take (students) to take the test and they use our truck.” Mitchell, who instructed a similar program at Gateway Community and Technical College in Covington, Ky., says he expects SCC students to have an “extremely high success rate” taking the CDL exam on the first attempt. One reason for Mitchell’s confidence is because of the program’s state-of-the-art tractor-trailer simulator.

The computerized truck cab has “video screens set up in front which show what you’re looking at going down the road,” he said, “and the sides will be what it would look like when you look in your mirrors.”

The instructor says the simulator is especially useful for students who have not driven or have limited experience behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer. “So, you’re gonna see it, you’re gonna feel it, you’re gonna shift, you’re gonna double clutch, and I can throw all kinds of scenarios at students … rain, snow, nighttime driving, pulling a hill, going down a hill … a full gamut of what to expect.”

And, Mitchell says the $3,900 cost for the training “is a bargain.” “I can’t think of any other program offered anywhere that you can go to for less than $4,000, be done in a month, and walk out into the workforce and potentially earn $50,000 right off the bat.”

The program’s cost includes a permit and the first over-the-road test. And, when the training is successfully completed, students earn six (6) college credit hours.

Mitchell noted that the program can accept students as young as 18. “You are restricted to driving within the state of Kentucky until you’re 21 (years old), but that’s really not a detriment,” he said. “There are all kinds of jobs driving trucks within the state.”

Mitchell noted that just a few of the potential employment opportunities include driving trucks for commerce, waste collection and construction.

Besides teaching students “how to drive,” Mitchell says his “goal is to prepare students for the trucking industry, to make them the safest possible driver out there, and to educate them as to what questions to ask (potential employers.)”

“I will teach them to be a truck driver, with safety paramount,” he said. “It is my dream that every one of my students has my driving record … and I will tell them the secrets to doing that.”

Mitchell has been a truck driver and trainer for 27 years and has a 2.5 million mile accident-free record. The instructor said that anyone interested in the course is invited to come and “shadow the class.”

CDL classes will be offered the following dates in 2020.

• January 21 through February 13, 2020
• February 24 through March 19, 2020
• March 30 through April 23, 2020

For more information on SCC’s CDL program, program requirements and funding options, visit SCC’s website at: somerset.kctcs.edu/workforce-solutions/cdl-program or email the instructor at [email protected].