Midland College Transportation Training Program
By Stacey Hewitt
Graduates of Midland College’s (MC) five-week transportation training program can now take their third party skills test at MC. With the demand for commercial drivers’ licenses (CDL) ramping up because of the ever-growing oil industry, appointments for CDL tests at the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) are booked several weeks in advance. The opportunity to take CDL tests at MC will save students valuable time and get them working at these in-demand jobs faster.
“Everyone knows the DMV is hectic and stressful,” MC trucking student Brystal Scurlock said. “Testing here will be faster and it will not be as nerve-wracking because I am in a familiar place.”
“Every time I go to the DMV I feel like I am there all day,” MC trucking student Theresa Mesquita said. “When I learned I could test here at MC I was relieved because I know my appointment will be on time.”
“Testing here at MC will be a lot easier,” MC trucking student Ali Kathim, said. “It will be the same test I would take at the DMV, but since I learned everything here I think it will feel more welcoming than the DMV.”
To be a certified testing site, MC had to apply and be accepted by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Two instructors attended training near Austin and completed their training that also included a week of hands-on evaluation and testing in Midland.
“Being a third party skills testing site is a good opportunity,” Director of Transportation Training Bryan Aldridge said. “I am excited to give students more flexibility, and it puts us in a great position to help our students retest faster if they fail. It has been busy getting testing started. At one point we had 40 of our own students waiting to test, but after only about a week of testing, that number went down to 11 students waiting to test.”
To pass the test students have to perform a pre-trip inspection on the vehicle’s exterior, a pre-trip inspection inside the cab, a seven-step air break test, a skills test consisting of specific turns and maneuvers and a driving route. The entire test is timed allowing for only two hours to complete it.
Aldridge says employers are hungry for new students.
“A lot of companies are offering jobs to students before they get out of class,” Aldridge said. “They basically tell them: ‘If you get your license, we will hire you.’ We field calls from probably about 10-15 companies each day wanting to come recruit the students. New people coming into the field are very attractive. The demand for drivers is critical here in the Permian Basin, but it is also a problem across the U.S.”
The demand for jobs is what brought Mesquita to the program.
“I see signs everywhere I go in the city that read ‘CDL drivers needed,’” Mesquita said. “I was in the medical field, and I wanted to do something completely different. After seeing so many opportunities in trucking, I thought, ‘I can do that.’”
MC’s program stands out because it can accept up to 15 students at a time. The program is an online hybrid with one week of online classroom instruction. Students then have in-person, one-on-one instruction when they are driving. They also have an opportunity to observe other students, thereby learning from their mistakes. In addition to the Midland classes, MC offers truck driving classes at the Williams Regional Technical Training Center, MC’s campus in Fort Stockton.
The program’s state-of-the-art fleet includes a 53-foot van, a 48-foot van and three vacuum trailers, which are used to haul water in the oilfield. Program leaders obtained the vacuum trailers in order for students to practice on equipment that is being used by companies in the Permian Basin. Trucks are also equipped with electronic logging devices.
MC offers a $700 continuing education scholarship for students who meet financial needs requirements. Current students say now is the time to get a CDL at MC.
“Being a woman, it was very intimidating deciding to get
into this field,” Scurlock said. “But I’ve gained a sense of confidence at MC,
which has been very reassuring. I went from feeling like I would not be able to
do this to I can do this. That feeling is very empowering. If you want to try
to get your CDL, Midland College is the best place to do it, and this is the
best time to do it. Every door is open to the students here.”