On the Record with Travis Roberts of Tri-Area Trucking School
When you think of truck driving, what image comes to mind?
Perhaps it’s Cledus and the Bandit outrunning Sheriff Buford T. Justice in the 1977 film “Smokey and the Bandit.” Well, the industry has come a long way since the movie premiered more than four decades ago, said Travis Roberts, director of Tri-Area Trucking School.
Roberts tells of a 20-year-old recent graduate who “walked into a trucking job where he works Monday through Friday, is home every night and his starting annual salary is $73,000.”
Gone are the days when those who wanted to make a good living as an over-the-road driver were away from home as many as eight days at a time. However, faced with the challenges of the current job market, employers are now paying their local drivers as much as over-the-road drivers, sometimes more — and they get to be home in time for dinner and their kids’ soccer games. Roberts said some local businesses “are paying drivers with less than a year of experience $85,000.” He smiled as he lamented how the school is struggling to find instructors because it can’t compete with the salary drivers are making on the road.
In February, a federal regulation went into effect requiring drivers of everything from school buses to big rigs to have their commercial driver’s license certification. Overnight, demand for training outstripped supply. Tri-Area Trucking School was able to adapt quickly and is now booking months out. Also seeing an opportunity, many fly-by-night schools have popped up to fill the gap and charge exorbitant prices, but Tri-Area Trucking is more interested in its good reputation in the industry, the quality of the training and keeping tuition affordable.
The cost of a full CDLA certification training program, including big rigs and everything else, is $4,900, while the CDLB program — for buses, dump trucks and delivery trucks — is $1,900. Don’t let the cost of the training deter you, most employers are eager to pay for training to get their recent hire certified. Michigan Works! also offers assistance and loans options as well.
By the way, truck driving is not the Wild West profession some think it is. Any type of suspension or revocation of your driver’s license can delay your CDL up to three years. Certain felonies, such as drug convictions or arson, automatically disqualify a driver from ever obtaining a CDL. Medically, your blood pressure and blood sugar need to be within certain ranges, and sleep concerns are also a factor.
To learn more, check out Tri-Area Trucking School at triareatruckingschool.com.