The big rig and 18-wheeler wrapped in Lanier Technical College colors and logo is not just for marketing purposes — it’s also for hands-on training.
“You’ve got to be on point,” said Chad Edwards, one of the college’s two instructors.
The school’s commercial truck driving certification program is rolling toward expansion thanks to outfitting at the new campus under construction off Ga. 365 at Howard Road.
A large concrete and asphalt pad has been poured at the site just for the kind of driver training necessary to get students ready for the Georgia commercial driver’s license skills exam and a career in the trucking business.
School officials said they would likely add more driving instructors as the program grows when the new campus opens in 2019.
Stanley Pierce, an instructor for Lanier Tech, began driving trucks professionally in 1973.
He said he’s driven everything from flatbeds to tour buses and has logged about 3.5 million miles in his years.
If Pierce’s experience has taught him anything, it’s that safety is the foundation of trucking, he said. That’s what he teaches, and its why students complete weeks of classroom training before getting behind the wheel for practice.
“Everything’s based on safety,” Pierce said. “The ultimate goal is to get the load transported safely.”
There are a lot of things to learn that most people outside the profession might not think of, Edwards said.
Developing the technical driving skills is one thing. But understanding the logistics of carrying different, often dangerous loads, learning the mechanics of a big rig engine, and even practicing the correct way to climb in and out of a truck are critical in their own right, Edwards said.
There’s also the importance of knowing how to limit liability. Truckers aren’t always looked upon endearingly on the road, Edwards said,
“Everyone wants to blame a trucker,” he added.
Learning these things and more will be the challenge for the eight to 10 expected in the upcoming eight-week summer course the college is offering.
The Lanier Tech program presents a few options that other private trainers do not typically provide, Edwards said.
For example, training can be expensive, but some Lanier Tech students can offset costs with the HOPE Career Grant, which is available to qualified students who enroll in majors specifically aligned with industries in which there are more jobs available in Georgia than there are skilled workers to fill them.
And if a student fails the state certification test, they will be retrained by the school free of charge until they get it right.
But the biggest aspect is more time spent behind the wheel. Many training programs last just three weeks, Pierce said.
“Everybody don’t get to start out in a truck like this,” Pierce said.