Klamath Community College and a Rogue Valley trucking academy have teamed up to get more Klamath Basin residents behind the wheel of a big rig.
The company, Aisling Truck Academy, is training commercial truck drivers at the KCC campus in Klamath Falls. Aisling, pronounced “ash-ling” in Irish Gaelic, is based in White City.
Aisling co-owner and instructor Bud Williams has more than 40 years of driving experience. Williams said students enrolled in the five-week commercial driver license (CDL) course receive a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on driving experience. The program prepares students to earn a Class A commercial driver license and optional endorsements.
Initial classroom instruction prepares students to pass the tests required to obtain a permit, Williams explained. Once students have a permit, they can get in the driver’s seat and learn how to shift and operate commercial vehicles, maneuver multi-lane roads, and drive over mountain passes. They also practice filling out logbooks, reading maps, and navigating with digital GPS.
“The most important thing for me is preparing students to drive on their own. By first experiencing some of these things in our academy, the transition will be much easier,” Williams said. “Students who complete our program with extensive hands-on knowledge will be more successful in the workforce.”
In the remaining portion of the course, students learn about federal trucking law, Department of Transportation rules and regulations, vehicle and personal safety, and driver wellness, such as eating habits and hygiene.
Charles “Chip” Massie, executive director of external programs at KCC, said in the past Klamath Falls residents who wanted to quickly earn a CDL had to go out of town for classes and training. This new partnership with Aisling means the program will be available to more residents, and its five-week duration will move students into the workforce fast.
“This short-term, intensive course is non-credit and allows students to focus on getting a license and moving into work if that is their desire,” Massie said. “One of the partnership’s key benefits is providing direct access to the trucking industry for potential job placement once students complete the program.”
Program graduates who are interested in earning an associate degree in diesel technology at KCC can use the CDL program as credit toward the degree.
“KCC is excited about this partnership because it will allow the college to offer a 10-credit CDL course in a condensed five-week format,” said KCC Dean of Career Technical Education Chris Stickles. “Then, using KCC’s credit-for-prior-certification process, students can put the CDL credit toward completing the diesel technology
KCC plans to expand the CDL program to Lakeview and other rural areas near Klamath Falls, Massie said. For Williams and his wife, Cathy, an Aisling co-owner who has logged more than 2 million miles of her own, students’ job placement is also a priority.
Cathy said students are guided every step of the way. She and Williams arrange recruitment introductions, help students fill out applications, and review students’ resumes.
“During the program, we help each student build an application template so all of their information is in order, correct, up to date, and easily transferred into an online application,” she said. “Students learn the difference between hourly rates and cents-per-mile rates, and about sign-on bonuses and other things confusing to new drivers when they are selecting an employer. We teach students how to sift through the hype and make good solid employer choices.”
Cathy said the course emphasizes “real life as a trucker” experiences so students have a clear understanding of the ups and downs they may encounter on the road.
“We don’t want to push someone into being gone for weeks at a time that has small children at home,” she said. “If there are local opportunities available we encourage prospective students to do some research before enrolling to see if local employment is available for new drivers. “We are expanding our trucking contacts in the Klamath Falls area so we have quality employers to place students with, regardless of whether they want to go on the road or stay local.”