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Where the rubber meets the road
Dirigo junior Garrett McPherson looks like a natural behind the wheel of a big rig.
Justin Dowland (left), Gavin Sanders (right) and Cody Houghton take a break from all the bookwork required to earn their truck driving licenses.
Joe Wheeler, Russell Keene, Ryan Barker (left side of table) and Frank P. Grande help each other study as they begin second and third careers.
Editor's Note: This is the eighth in a series of articles about the students in the various programs at the Region 9 School of Applied Technology.
MEXICO -- The commercial drivers license (CDL) truck driving program at Region 9 School of Applied Technology is different than all the other programs. Aside from it having the longest title, the class is the shortest in duration – only 10 weeks. High school students and adult students interested in a second or third career take the class together. The prerequisite for the class include a valid Class C (passenger car) license, the ability to drive a standard shift transmission and the ability to pass a drug test.
Another difference between this program and others at region 9 is the cost.
Instructor Eddy Naples explains, “To earn your CDL license after high school costs over $3,500. As a high school student, it is $35 for the CDL permit! If you would like to have a truck-driving license as an extra skill or think you will need it as part of the requirements of a future job, now is the time to get it! Telstar students note that the Truck Driving program comes to your school during one quarter of the year, so you will not need to travel.”
Currently, there are 254 jobs open in Maine for drivers with a Class A or B license! A Class A license is needed for tractor and trailer rigs. Class B is for driving dump trucks, oil trucks or school buses. Both are offered at Region 9.
The job market appeals to many students.
Planning for the future was on Dirigo junior Gavin Sander’s mind. He chose the program “because having a Class A and B is always good to have on a resume.”
Garrett McPherson, a Dirigo junior, added, “It will widen my abilities and also widen job possibilities.”
With an eye on the cost, Dirigo senior Cody Houghton chose the Region 9 program because “I wanted to take advantage of how much cheaper it is to take the class while I’m in [high] school.”
Finally, Ryan Barker from Farmington wants to “better my future and get into a good career.”
Universally, the students enjoy Naples, Instructor Daryl Baker and their teaching style.
Kevin Mabry of Auburn likes the visual nature of the course. “The teacher shows lots of pictures.”
Telstar senior Zach Fritz adds that the teachers “listen to what you have to say and truly try to help.”
Finally, Russell Keene of Livermore notes the “flexible schedule and caring teaching staff.”
In addition to time driving the big rig, Baker reminds students there’s more than just sitting in the driver’s seat. “Students should have mechanical aptitude and ability. Basic math is essential and students should be able to read, write, and interpret instructions.”
The class meets two to four hours per day with students driving in the yard (the parking lot at Region 9) or on the road every other day.
Each student would recommend the program to others. Joe Wheeler from Bethel said, “It’s a good program with hands-on training and individual training.”
“The instructors are friendly and take a personal interest in each student’s progress,” adds Frank Grande from Waterville.
Finally, Dirigo senior Justin Dowland commented, “It’s a good quality program, good teachers and lifetime skills.”
For more details on the truck-driving program, go to www.region9truckdriving.org or contact Region 9 to schedule a tour.