TSTC’s CDL instructors embrace purpose in educating future truck drivers

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FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Isaac Gonzalez, Juan Silguero, Juan Hernandez, Robert Ramirez, Neiva Martinez, Andrew Gonzalez and Gamaliel Nino are representatives of TSTC’s Workforce Training and Continuing Education Professional Driving Academy in Harlingen. (Courtesy: Texas State Technical College/TSTC)

HARLINGEN — Educating and training men and women for truck driving careers is a commitment taken seriously by the instructors at Texas State Technical College’s Professional Driving Academy. That devotion will be celebrated as part of National Truck Driver Appreciation Week from Sept. 10 to 16.

The Professional Driving Academy prepares trainees to test for a Class A commercial driver’s license, or CDL, at TSTC’s campuses in Abilene, Fort Bend County, Harlingen and Marshall.

Cindy Brunett, TSTC’s executive director for Workforce Training and Continuing Education in Abilene, oversees the Professional Driving Academy’s West Texas region. She said the statewide team of instructors is proud to place certified individuals into truck driving careers.

“Our CDL graduates put trucks on the road, ensuring that goods and services are reliably delivered,” she said. “This strengthens the supply chain that we all depend on.”

Juan Hernandez, the Professional Driving Academy’s director of operations in Harlingen, said the CDL instructors are highly skilled professionals.

“Each instructor teaches by the rules and regulations to ensure students are properly educated by the time they test to earn a certificate from our accredited program,” he said. “Our program has a success rate of 98%, and some of the trucking companies that have hired our graduates are Melton Truck Lines, Schneider, Spirit Truck Lines, Swift Transportation and Werner Enterprises.”

Jake Whitley, a CDL instructor at the Abilene campus, has been in the trucking industry since 1981.

“I’m glad I have the industry skills to teach students how to safely drive a truck,” he said. “I have past students who have contacted me or visited the office to thank me for changing their lives.”

Kelli Wilson, a CDL instructor at the Fort Bend Country campus, has 18 years of truck driving experience.

“I firmly believe that it’s an instructor’s responsibility to ensure that the most qualified and experienced drivers are deployed on the roads in Texas,” she said. “I take pride in setting a precedent as a female instructor. My presence in the field demonstrates that anyone, regardless of gender, can pursue a successful career as a professional truck driver. Not only do I provide students with practical driving skills, but I also impart firsthand knowledge of their vital role in our country’s economic infrastructure.”

Neiva Martinez, a CDL instructor at the Harlingen campus, came into her teaching position with four years of trucking experience.

“I feel that I’ve made a difference by educating more truck drivers to transport commodities that go to schools, grocery stories and many other areas across the state,” she said. “These men and women are trying to better themselves and provide for their families.”

Steven Coleman, a CDL instructor at the Marshall campus, brings 28 years of trucking experience to his students.

“I love being a part of the beginning of the students’ new careers,” he said. “I value the knowledge I have in educating a new generation of truck drivers and bringing the best from the past and incorporating it with the new.”

In the four-week CDL training program, students learn how to conduct pre-trip inspections, demonstrate backing and parallel parking skills, and other requirements. The course length is 160 hours.

TSTC’s Professional Driving Academy will begin its next four-week course on Sept. 25. Contact Linda Cavazos at 956-364-4553 or [email protected] for more information.

National Truck Driver Appreciation Week is an annual celebration begun by the American Trucking Associations in 1988 to recognize the contributions of truck drivers to our daily lives and the nation’s economy.

For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.