DACC Driving the Local Economy
America’s supply-chain crisis has created a new rock star: the tractor-trailer operator.
To meet local, regional, and national demand for more tractor-trailer operators, Danville Area Community College has its CDL program running on all cylinders.
With the Board of Trustees’ recent approval of an additional full-time instructor (David Goble), CDL Coordinator Pete Powell and his team are moving at full throttle to meet needs of local industry. Mr. Powell says, “Having Dave full-time greatly improves our ability to expand our classes to run every day of the week and all year round. We have two classes going simultaneously during the day, Mondays through Fridays. We also have a night class and a class on Saturdays and Sundays.”
Besides Mr. Goble, Kent Reining is a full-time training specialist, while Sherry Jenkins is available part-time, mostly at night. And Pete Powell isn’t just the program coordinator—he’s also a trainer.
The Certified Drivers’ License course requires 240 hours of training that combines classroom studies with road operations and test driving on the DACC campus. Completion of the course qualifies Illinois residents to take a State Skills and Road Test that leads to a Class A CDL license. The test is administered in Tilton. Indiana residents who complete the program are taken to Schneider National Company in Indianapolis for testing. As Mr. Powell says, “Lately, we’ve been seeing quite a few Indiana students.”
Class A operators are licensed to operate vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds, like semi-tractors (“big rigs” or 18-wheelers), livestock carriers, tankers, and flatbeds. Weekday training can be completed in six weeks with eight-hour days. Weekends are completed in 15 weeks, while evening classes are offered either in eight- or 12-week blocks.
Local manufacturing, transportation, and logistics companies are desperate enough to recruit DACC’s CDL students that they’re offering signing bonuses of up to $20,000 for work that pays as much as $54 an hour. Says Mr. Powell, “McLane and Sygma take students as soon as they earn their CDL license. AutoZone, Pepsi, R & L, Double S, and XPO Logistics will take our students. I also get a lot of calls from owner operators that need drivers for their trucks as well as many calls from farmers. And FedEx in Champaign hires our students. When the new FedEx opens in Southgate, they’ll be looking for DACC to help provide drivers.”
Last year’s purchase of an additional training vehicle and driving simulator, along with hiring another full-time instructor, were sound investments, according to Business & Technology Dean Terri Cummings. “Having Dave allows Pete to max out our enrollment based on the amount of trucks and trailers that we have available. We’re able to expand enrollment and fulfill our mission of supporting local industry.”
One added benefit of program expansion has been an increased capacity to serve students in the fast-track Class B program. Says Mr. Powell, “We've had more class B students this year alone than we had the last two years combined—and this adds a lot to the program.”
With a Class B license, drivers operate vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds but the amount of weight they tow is restricted to less than 10,000 pounds. They typically are hired to operate box trucks, buses, and dump trucks.
Dean Cummings applauds the College’s decision four years ago to relocate the program from an abandoned building in the Garfield section of Danville to an on-campus home in the Tech Center lot. “It’s a program we’re very proud of,” she says. “Pete and his trainers are doing important work in preparing CDL operators to support the supply chain. Our CDL program deserves to be where it is now—showcased right out there in the front of the campus.”
To register or for more information on the tractor/trailer program contact Pete Powell at 217-443-8565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.