Dave Dein is on a mission, you might say. After the California Air Resources Board’s in-use diesel regs (banning pre-2007 engines from use) put the longtime former trucker’s Faith Logistics trucking ministry working with “guys coming out of prison” out of business, he says, he chose to “turn a negative into a positive” after getting experience teaching in local schools.
Working with staff at Patterson High School in Patterson, Calif., and several trucking partners, he’s established what as far as he can tell may be the first non-vocational-school CDL trucking course in the country. Available for seniors at Patterson, it’s in its first year with two sections maxed at 8 students in each for 180 hours of classroom instruction and 20 hours for each student on one of two simulators the school’s invested in.
After completion of the program, a partnership with the area Morning Star tomato-processing company’s trucking arm allows students if they so choose to obtain free behind-the-wheel training to obtain their intrastate CDL and then temporary seasonal employment hauling tomatoes over the course of the summer, with opportunity to earn $12,000 toward college or the next step in a career in trucking or elsewhere. Morning Star typically hires hundreds of drivers for their three-month field-to-processing-plant season, Dein says, so “they need quite a few drivers.” Out of Woodland, Calif., one of the company’s facilities in just about 40 miles from Patterson High School.
Dein himself, back when (1988 saw his first trucking experience), paid his “way through college hauling tomatoes for Morning Star,” he says, so the novel program brings things full circle for him. He’d had seven older power units donated to his Faith Logistics partially on-highway training program before CARB’s regs “basically shut us down,” he says. “We donated that equipment to the high school and we use that for the pretrip inspection” that caps the instruction students receive in the program.
The course had something of a trial run last year as an adult-ed class, Dein says, which gave him a “chance to get the curriculum dialed in” as a sort of advanced driver’s ed with a focus on Class 8 trucking. On the simulator, students get used to a 10-speed transmission and “progressive shifting – then we go into the different driving scenarios.”
Other partners on the curriculum side of the course were Penske Logistics and Worklete, which teaches the proper way to perform industry-specific job functions to prevent injuries. In the course, students also get the basics of proper methods of opening and closing the hood, entering and exiting the cab and pulling the fifth wheel. Students will all be Worklete-certified “by the end of the year,” Dein says.
This first year, Dein has seen real progress in students’ simulator performance — “they can get on the sim now and shift gears and you can really carry on a conversation with them at the same time,” he says, clear indication they’re getting the hang of thing. “Once we get them into the real trucks, it’ll be interesting” to see how things go.
Potential for scaling up? Dein sees it. “There are more than 26,000 public high schools in the United States,” he says. If “10 students from each went into trucking, that’s 260,000 new drivers” with real exposure to the details of safe and efficient operation, if they didn’t get it from a family member. And while local/intrastate opportunities aren’t what they are in California everywhere around the nation, having the intrastate CDL (or at the very least the learner’s permit) is no doubt a leg up on the rest of the generation who may or may not be thinking about getting into the business. Hats off to Dave Dein for the idea. At the very least, there will be 16 students coming out of Patterson High School this year with a much better appreciation for appropriate following distances and the like when they get their autos out on the highway, eh?
Find more about the program in the video that follows from Patterson: