ODESSA, Texas (KMID/KPEJ) – Over half a million drivers are needed each year for the next decade, that’s according to according to the American Trucking Association.
Odessa College offers several courses to help you earn your CDL license.

“Even though it’s a small percentage, we’re still making an impact on the community. We got to start local and work our way out,” said William Anthony Church, the CDL Program Director.

“Knowing we have a shortage, every place needs food and equipment so having more drivers means helping more people,” said CDL Student, Manuel Guerrero.

Guerrero is about 4 weeks through the program and says the industry is one he’s looking forward to joining.

“It’s great. Great teachers, the environments great, great energy, everybody’s just real helpful,” said Guerrero. “Were learning pre-trips, basic maneuvers, basically preparing us to be out there in the real world on our own.”

Classes consist of up to 200 hours and include classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction, as well as screening to help qualify out-trained drivers for employment.

“We have a 9-week program and an 8-week program. We average around 100 students per year out of 11 classes. To be able to see these students be successful and get their license after their training, it’s just a blessing to be a part of that,” said Church.

Odessa College is also reopening its’ program in Andrews for students next school year– to expand opportunities for locals. They do have an existing program outside of Odessa already, in Pecos.

“We have a Pecos program which is 9 weeks long. It is a weekend program for people that are working full time, and just can’t go through a 5-week course, now we have a weekend for them to obtain their CDL license,” said Church.

Although the program has grown tremendously in its 5-year existence, a grant from the Permian Strategic Partnership recently, for more than 3 million dollars– is helping students with scholarships, instructional needs, more trucks, and additional instructors, which church tells me will lead to bigger enrollment. He says there are several reasons someone might want to go into this profession.

“A lot of the students want to get in this industry because they want a career change, or be able to explore open roads if you do open road driving, or help out their family and the community,” said Church.

A lot of it is the accomplishment itself.

“If you put that time and effort behind it, and that dedication, it’s going to be rewarding, getting through the program and finishing the program,” said Church.

“It’s not easy but it is a bigger accomplishment, after that 5, 8 or 9 weeks, going through all those early mornings and late evenings, and also being behind the wheel of a vehicle that not your typical size, it’s a big achievement,” said Church.

The PSP in partnership with Odessa College is hoping this program can make a difference. OC also plans to expand its program to serve more students next year in the classroom and out on the roads.

Applicants must have a high school diploma, GED, or pass an assessment test and be 18 years of age or older to apply for the truck driving academy.

For the link to apply, click here.