Northeastern High School‘s CDL training program has already nearly doubled in size in just its second year. Now the program is fundraising to buy an updated driver training simulator to further enhance its students’ learning experience.
The Manchester, Pennsylvania high school began offering a CDL prep class to students last year after driver’s education instructor Chad Forry, who’s been teaching for 20 years, saw an opportunity to provide students with a marketable skill. The school district is central to I-83, I-76, and I-81, which are main transportation routes in Central Pennsylvania and bring plenty of trucking industry jobs to the area.
“After 20 years, at some point, you’d like to do things differently and I just thought this would be a great opportunity because you always hear about the demand (for truckers) and the opportunities of sign-on bonuses and all this stuff that’s happening. I really didn’t see anybody actually targeting this need at all in the area,” Forry said.
The elective class, called the D.R.I.V.E. program, or Driving Resources Innovation Vehicular Education, last year had 16 students sign up and now this year there are two CDL training classes with a combined 30 students. Forry wants to grow the class to 45 students next school year. Forry’s goals for the class include increasing student involvement to 70 students by the 2020-2021 school year, with 30 or more of those students entering the transportation field.
Some successful students have already been able to land jobs at trucking companies and warehouses.
While the students can’t drive interstate until age 21, per current federal regulations, the class is designed to get them ready to take the CDL exam and help them get a foot in the door at trucking companies and warehouses. Representatives from local trucking companies and organizations come to speak to the students about job opportunities in the industry, and the class has also taken field trips to visit businesses like Estes Express Lines and Keystone Trailer Services.
“Kids pick their jobs a lot of times between 18-22 and unfortunately you can’t really get a trucking job until they’re 21. But if you can get in the field somehow, that’s why I’m like hey, this could be a possible opportunity. We have a lot of warehouses in our area. It’s a hub for transportation here,” Forry said.
The program is currently fundraising to buy a new, updated driver training simulator to replace the outdated ones they currently have. The program has already received support from several sponsors, including the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, Shelly Truck Driving School, Estes Express Lines, and Kenworth of Pennsylvania, among others.
The fundraiser has currently raised $55,000 of the $100,000 the program needs to buy a new simulator, Forry said. The fundraiser launched Sept. 12.
“Where I want to go next year is I want to have a full truck commercial-level simulator that every kid in the D.R.I.V.E. program will get some real-life trucking experience,” Forry said. “They’ll all have a feel for what it’s like to be in the truck. I really want to be able to help them with understanding backing, air brakes, how to do their safety checks and their pre-trip checks.”
As the program continues to grow, Forry hopes to add forklift certification lessons as well as an additional class on transportation internships where students would spend half a day at school and the other half interning with a trucking company. The overall goal is to help prepare students for jobs in the transportation industry and connect them with those opportunities.
“That’s the best thing I can do is to get the kids really exposed to it and excited about it,” Forry said.