‘A Different Career’: Riverland Truck Driver Program Helps Meet Industry Demand – Austin Daily Herald

“A Different Career”: Riverland Truck Driver Program Helps Meet Industry Demand

Posted at 3:10 p.m. on Thursday, September 1, 2022

By Alex Guerrero

[email protected]

The new field of driving at Riverland Community College’s truck driver program has been running since 2020. According to Jonathan Rymer, lead instructor and program director, any vehicle weighing more than 26,000 pounds requires a commercial driver’s license.

“We teach students all varieties of commercial driver’s licenses and all types of vehicles that require them,” he said. “It would be tractor-trailers with all the different types of trailers, i.e. buses, garbage trucks, cement mixers.”

Before entering the college’s 16-week program, students should ideally have a learner’s license for commercial driving, although he said that if they didn’t, the program gave students time off. to get one. Currently, there are 20 students in the newest class, which is a typical class size, according to Rymer.

“We usually have about that as far as registration goes,” he said. “We’ve had a few ups and downs, but for the most part it’s somewhere in that region.”

Once students have the license, they are allowed to drive with instructors.

“The training is really short, and it’s really not that expensive to do,” he said.

After spending time on campus at what Rymer called the “range,” learning the basics of commercial driving, students and instructors will hit the roads around the area. He said this usually happens around the third week of the program.

“We frequent I-90 first, then we like to take two-lane freeways, and then we have little test routes that we use around town,” he said.

Typically, he sees students coming from a radius of about 100 miles, ranging from south of the metro in northern Iowa, as far northwest as New Ulm, and as far east as Caledonia.

He also said that as things stand, the trucking industry is short by thousands of drivers and the country is short by more than 80,000 tractor-trailer drivers across the country.

Finding professors to teach was a challenge, he said. Currently, he was the only full-time instructor, although he had lab assistants. The lab assistants were usually people he had had in previous courses who had enough experience to qualify as an instructor and had time to help part-time. Ideally, he would also like to have a night program, but admitted that to do this he needed more instructors.

Currently, there are fall and spring classes.

Adams student Phillip Milks decided to sign up to “try something new” after spending 4½ years in retail.

“I just wanted to try something where I’m on the road and basically enjoy my day,” he said.

Milks also admitted that it was a career he considered in high school, but didn’t consider it a serious career option.

“As I got older, a little wiser you might say, I decided I wanted to try another career,” he said.

And while he admitted he had a lot to learn, he described his first few weeks in the program as good, especially now that he is on the road.

Lah Ser believed that the program would allow him to see the beauty of every state he passed through and believed that as a truck driver you are helping the community.

Initially, he did not consider a profession that he considered potentially dangerous.

Ser spent most of his life in Idaho, but after moving to Minnesota he decided to become a driver.

So far, he said he liked everything about the program.

“Jonathan is a very good teacher,” he says.

He also encouraged anyone considering a career in trucking to “go for it.”

For anyone interested in signing up, they should visit riverland.edu, click on “admissions” and make an appointment. For those interested in teaching, Rymer suggested contacting Riverland’s human resources department.

“Ideally they should have a resume and they should have experience with the type of vehicle they are training on,” he said. “We like to see they have five years of experience so we can qualify them.”

Ryan H. Bowman