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PTDI Course-Certified Programs Prepare Drivers from Metro Areas to Remote Communities as Federal Rulemaking Nears
Whether training on mountainous roads in rural Pennsylvania, remote areas in Alaska, or the congested highways of metropolitan Memphis, schools with Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) course-certified programs are ready for the federal rulemaking on entry-level driver training anticipated next year.
“When I looked at the new entry-level driver training information coming from the federal government’s consortium on what CDL students should know, I was not nervous,” said Tina Frindt, director of Northampton Community College (NCC), in Tannersville, Penn., one of four schools that recently received PTDI course certification or recertification. “I already do all of what they will require because of PTDI.”
Once the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Final Rule goes into effect, Frindt noted, “I think there’s going to be some schools out there that are either going to have to comply or are going to go away.”
For each of the schools that received course certification or recertification recently, PTDI ensures they met or exceed the only current national standards for truck driving training. These standards, in addition, far surpass that of the anticipated FMCSA standards even though the environment and conditions under which these programs operate may be quite unusual.
Situated in a farmland community with a growing population of commuters, the campus of NCC is located at the base of mountain, “which means winding roads that are treacherous in winter months,” Frindt said. “We’re also close to metro areas like Allentown, so we can throw a lot of different things at our students, like getting them onto major highways and teaching them under multiple road conditions.”
“Our school’s biggest strength is our location,” said Joey Crum, president of Northern Industrial Training, LLC, in Palmer, Alaska, which received its initial certification nearly 11 years ago. “We are very close to Anchorage and at the same time, close to two mountain passes and very close to the ocean. So we have an unusual multi environment of ocean, rural, and urban that really affords us an opportunity to focus on the skills that our students need to work on.”
Nationwide recruiters seek the school’s graduates, some of whom will leave the state while others will take advantage of driving the Alaskan Al-Can (Alaska to Canada) highway, Crum said.
Another Alaskan school, Yuut Driving Academy, in Bethel, received its first course certification.
As the smallest school, Yuut is located in the most unusual area. Although classified as a city, Bethel has a population of only 6,500, and is surrounded by small villages, a few paved roads, and a state highway only several miles long. Despite its remote location, Bethel has the third busiest airport in Alaska.
Yet every area has its challenges. At Swift Professional Driving Academy, in Memphis, Tenn., David Mays, academy leader, noted the challenge their students face “is the madness of some drivers in automobiles — their unpredictable, unsafe, and assertive driving. You have to account for this in the training. Based on the materials we provide students, they have a pretty good clue before they get behind the wheel.”
Being located in a metropolitan area means more competition, more choices. But Mays isn’t concerned. “We find our graduates have talked to our students about the high level of training they’re getting here, and, despite students knowing the time involved for our program is lengthier, word of mouth is drawing them,” Mays said.
“One thing I’ve noticed,” Mays added, “is PTDI has given our program a more solid foundation for entry-level drivers. And the certification process makes us better instructors.”
Jeremy Osborne, program director at Yuut Driving Academy, agrees. “It was amazing how much the certification process helped us improve our training program,” he said. "We addressed a lot of things we never even thought of and received great feedback on our methods from experienced professionals.”
Because of Yuut’s location, PTDI conducted its first virtual visit to evaluate a school’s program, and for that, Osborne is grateful. “We’re a small organization out in the middle of rural Alaska, so it’s nice to be part of PTDI.”