Courtesy Steve Yingling, Western Nevada College
By the time test day at the DMV arrives for students in the Western Nevada College’s Commercial Driver’s License program, they’ll know their instructors have provided them with the driving skills and knowledge to successfully pass their CDL Class A driver’s license tests.
Given that they are learning from instructors who have more than 100 combined years of employment with a CDL license, aspiring CDL drivers will have a competitive edge coming out of the five-week training program.
Fred de Alba, Joseph Terry and Butch Gordo are providing CDL license preparation for students training in Carson City, Fallon and Winnemucca, respectively. They provide truck inspection facts, driving practice and operator knowledge to students during the class. WNC’s Continuing Education program now has four trucks for its classes in Carson City, Fallon and Winnemucca.
A CDL Class A driver’s license opens up a world of employment opportunities for those who pass the test. They can haul heavy freight, machinery and construction materials locally, regionally and nationally for employers. They can start their own trucking company or receive a bump in pay from their current employer because of their coveted skill.
Fred, who teaches the program in Carson City, followed his dad into the business. He has hauled goods through 48 states and Canada. He has been a licensed commercial driver for 46 years.
“It’s in my blood; it’s a family thing,” he said. “I didn’t like being confined to an urban area and all that. I first started running from the Bay Area to L.A., then I started running West Coast, then regional. It just got bigger and bigger. I enjoyed seeing the country and enjoyed the lifestyle.
“I also liked it because I didn’t have to worry about someone looking over my shoulder. I had a job to do and I did my job. I didn’t need someone to be on me all of the time like in a factory. I got to see a lot and I met a lot of good people.”
Despite dedicating so many years of his life to the business, there is one part that he continues to love. “I got tired of the over-the-road business, but I never get tired of driving a truck,” he said.
On a typical day, Fred said the law allows a trucker to drive for 11 hours. But driving is only part of the duties. He said another 4 hours per day can be spent on loading, unloading, inspections and fueling.
“A lot of people come in and think of the movies (Smokey and the Bandit),” Fred said. ‘They see all of these truck-driving movies and they think truckers are always having fun and it’s easy to do, and anybody can do it. It’s far from that. They have a big misconception of what driving a truck is. In the movies, they are driving a truck 1 percent of the time and the rest of the time they are having fun.”
Some want their CDL license for other reasons. Joseph, who provides CDL instruction on WNC’s Fallon campus, acquired a CDL license in 1980 so he could transport his own machinery – for General Electric – and save money.
“I was never an over-the-road person. For me, it was like another tool in the toolbox that you absolutely needed because otherwise you were at the mercy of other people,” Joseph said. “If I built a piece of machinery for somebody in Kentucky, then I was at the mercy of somebody charging hundreds of dollars an hour to get it there.
“I would have a lot of machinery that I’d have to move to a site, like a crane, and that sort of stuff. A CDL license was an absolute necessity.”
At the urging of Joseph, Fred came out of retirement to teach CDL students at WNC.
“I did instruct for a number of years … that’s where Joe and I met,” Fred said. “Joe needed some assistance so he called me up, and I said, ‘Sure.’ I really enjoy instructing students.”
WNC’s CDL program has grown from having one truck (donated by S.S. Hert Trucking) to teach students in Fallon to four trucks and three training sites. Funding from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development enabled the program to expand, add training simulators and offer more driver training opportunities.
“One of the trucks is an automatic transmission,” said Lauren Slemenda Moore, who coordinates Continuing Education at WNC, including the CDL program. “If students can’t get the hang of shifting, they still have an option to get a CDL license.”
Joseph said, “Some people don’t have the dexterity to double clutch and downshift, so an automatic is a good option. More and more companies are going to automatic trucks because of fuel savings and mechanical repairs.”
Additional funding from the U.S. Department of Labor has made it possible to add a fourth truck to serve the program in Winnemucca and compensate two of the program’s three instructors over three years.
“It also provides funding for administrative projects that will support the execution of the program, including marketing to and supporting diverse student groups, making the student registration process more seamless, and supporting instructors in developing their skills,” Slemenda Moore said.
Joseph and Fred are enjoying the opportunity to prepare students for a skill that has served them well for many years.
“The nice thing about WNC’s CDL program is it’s not a factory,” Joseph said. “We are here to teach students. Other schools that we’ve been at, we were there to teach students and they were there to make money.”
WNC’s CDL Prep course provides students with the knowledge and skills to earn a Class A driver’s license. The program’s workforce connections with local businesses such as Southwest Gas and Western Nevada Supply enhance students’ chances for employment afterward and earning a family-sustaining wage. The five-week classes run Monday through Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. WNC next CDL classes start July 31. Learn more about the program at wnc.edu/continuing-education/motor-vehicle-training-and-safety/commercialdrivers.php.
For more information, contact Slemenda Moore at email@example.com or 775-445-4210.