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PTDI Certification at Military Facilities Ensures Safety, Marketability, and Proper Training
The Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) has certified the first contract training course at a U.S. Army installation and a second U.S. Air Force truck driver training course, broadening both the marketability of veterans and the pool of properly trained military drivers.
“The truck driver training program is ideally suited for a soldier transitioning out of the military, coming back from overseas, or retiring from the service,” said Harry Kowalchyk, president of National Tractor Trailer School, Liverpool, New York, which offers a PTDI-certified contract training course at Fort Drum, in upstate New York. “Many do not have strong, marketable skills that can help them easily transition into the private sector. Now, with PTDI, when they enter the civilian sector, they have completed a certified course that is nationally recognized.”
Regional Equipment Operator Training School (REOTS), Ft. Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, is the second of two USAF truck driver training sites to attain PTDI certification and the second ever Department of Defense course to be certified. REOTS is part of the 201st RED HORSE Squadron of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard and was selected as venue for truck driver training because of REOTS’ mission to provide skill level, upgrade, and proficiency training for Active Duty, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard USAF Civil Engineers (CE). With tractor trailer operations being an integral part of CE’s mission, ensuring Airmen were properly trained to drive on a military installation as well as on public roadways was imperative. As a result, the Air Force began looking at ways to improve training and turned to PTDI.
Impressed by how much he learned going through the PTDI certification process, TSgt. Joshua Neely, lead instructor of the REOTS truck driver training program, said he now has more knowledge of what it takes to put safe drivers behind the wheel.
“With PTDI, we realized how much we missed,” Neely said. “We are training to industry standards now, and it has significantly increased our Airmen’s capabilities. This program has broadened the amount of people we have available who can drive tractor trailers for the military. And from the civilian side of it, they can leave the military with this certificate and be more marketable to carriers ready to hire drivers.”
Ensuring proper training and public safety overall have been significant motivators for REOTS. “It’s been a huge strengthening of the professionalism and confidence of our instructors,” said CMSgt Paul F. Swenson, Commandant. “We can see the benefits all across the board.”
“Our primary reason and focus for providing truck driver training at REOTS is to ensure we are able to complete any mission and be safe in the performance of our duties. From an international perspective, it helps us to better meet our federal and state mission to respond with properly trained Airmen, ensuring we get the right capability at the right place at the right time and do it safely.”
Kowalchyk sees similar benefits at Fort Drum. “Soldiers are taking this course for upward mobility within the army. The army needs qualified drivers to transport goods and supplies to its installations throughout the world, and this program helps answer that need.”
“But, in addition, graduates of this program find themselves in a career that’s in high demand, with a good starting salary, plus the benefits of an apprenticeship from the GI bill.”
Offering the only tractor trailer program with a PTDI-certified course on an army installation, Kowalchyk knows that the PTDI certification provides additional reassurances to employers as well as the army.
For Lakina Griffin, who, along with her husband, retired from the army and became part of a husband/wife truck driving team for H.O. Wolding, the Fort Drum program offered excellent preparation for their career transition. “The training was exceptional,” she said. “Now that I’m out there I see that we needed everything we learned and more.”
TSgt. Joseph Prudish, co-lead instructor at REOTS, has received similar responses from Airmen attending the course. Reservists and guardsmen have capitalized on using the truck driver training at REOTS to pursue a civilian truck driving career.
“After some of our guardsman and reservists leave here and obtain employment with a carrier, they have a total understanding of how PTDI has helped them,” Prudish said. “It also enhances the marketability of active duty personnel transitioning from the Air Force into the civilian sector. Now our truck driver training program has a waiting list.”