Pleasanton’s Coastal Bend College offers training for big rig truckers
When you see an 18-wheeler traveling down the road, it’s required that he go through commercial driver’s license training and conduct an entire pre-trip checkout of that truck and trailer. To help truckers do this properly, Coastal Bend College in Pleasanton has been providing classes to train employees of area oil field firms and others.
“Commercial Drivers License classes started about a year ago, here at Coastal Bend College,” said Terry Villañueva, Campus Coordinator of the Pleasanton campus, “We’ve trained over 150 individuals in the (CDL) program during the past year or so. Students enrolled in the classes came here on an individual basis or were registered for the classes through area oil and gas firms.
We’ve been working towards beginning a petroleum curriculum for our campus, also. Coastal Bend College is attempting to procure an instructor for that at the present time. However, we do have classes that we can offer in the oil and gas field at the present time in Beeville.”
Villanueva continued, “We just started a welding class this summer with about ten students enrolled. They’ll be working towards their Associate’s Degree in Welding. Earning that degree takes about two years - one year for a Level I Certificate. This program includes dual credit students. We have a class during the day, at Pleasanton High School, where students are earning dual credit for high school and college. We’re cooperating with the high school and students are doing the welding at the shop there. Others in the community can register for classes in the evening.”
Santos said, “At one time, here in Pleasanton, we had a big group of twenty students. In that CLP (Commercial Learner’s Permit) class we broke the class up into groups of three individuals to a truck. For each three, that made up a separate class. This class enables them to obtain their permit and prepare for DPS (Department of Public Safety) licensing.
With the CLP, an individual can drive a big truck as long as he has a commercial licensed driver in the cab.
Martin, program trainer, has twelve years big rig driving experience and is highly qualified in the teaching field. He’s had driving experience in the oil field.
“Every individual we’ve trained here at Coastal Bend College during the past year is a licensed driver, of course, except for the three we’re training here, now,” said Martin, adding, “Their training will be going on for about three weeks. At that point, they will have the minimum requirement to drive for oil companies. For most of the students, they’re enrolled with us by petroleum-related companies, who’ll have them driving along with others to gain additional on the job experience.”
Some of the larger firms require that the drivers they hire have a certain level of experience. But, you’ve got to start somewhere and Coastal Bend College is a big help. Martin, their instructor, had worked for Excel Driver Services in Denver, Colorado, before transferring to Texas to take over the Pleasanton training.
Santos mentioned, “We do safety training, here at the college, also. We have the CPR bags, first aid kits and so forth. This is vital training that all new personnel need. Just being out in the field is not enough training. So, we do that for companies.”
“Individuals come in with their permits when starting our classes or in some cases, we help them get their permits. Even with permits, they still need classroom work. We train employees at all levels of experience, depending on the need of a given company. We do novice training and provide different levels of this category of training for companies. If companies want them ‘in and out’, we do a two-week class. If they desire additional training, we have three to four week classes as they prepare to move onto the work site. A lot of safety training is part of all of our classes,” said Santos, “The safety issue has really changed in the oil industry at this period of time. Back in the 70s and 80s, it was all about ‘let’s pump the money in’. Now, safety comes first.”
Martin commented, “Safety is a culture now and not just a footnote. Safety’s a big thing out there in the construction and oil industry, where companies, before they hire someone, they will look at the company’s safety rating. If you don’t have a certain level of safety rating, then they’re not going to even look at you,” continuing, “As far as a truck inspection goes, it takes three good ones to overturn one bad one. A lot of these inspections are done where the scales are located on the side of the road and you’re asked to pull over at that point. They determine if your truck is running properly and they look at your brakes to make sure they’re at a proper level. Actually, they look at everything to make sure you’re not a hazard on the road.”
“In training at Coastal Bend College, in the pre-trip stage, a driver has a whole list of things he has to check before he puts his truck on the road. We ask students to walk around the truck and point out things and tell us what they’re looking for. They have to make sure that they’ve checked all of the items on a big list we have. Pre-trip checkouts include things inside the cab, outside the cab, the trailer and under the trailer. When they do a pre-trip check, they’re going to start in the engine compartment, then they’re going to do a 360 degree inspection around the vehicle, the truck and the trailer. Then, once they’re done with that, they go in and do an in-cab inspection. That’s when they start the engine, and they do a safe start. Then they check all the gauges and make sure they’re working properly, lights and all in-cabin dash indicators to make sure they’re working properly. Then they do a brake check to make sure the brakes are working properly. This is a mandatory routine/ check-up every time they get in that vehicle and before it moves. A vehicle pre-trip inspection is required by law. It’s called a ‘DVIR’, which is a ‘driver’s vehicle inspection report’. Every time you step in the truck, you have to have the DVIR in your possession in a log book. On the DVIR, you also write the mileage you start at. They’ll know what time and date you did your DVIR inspection. Department of Public Safety (DPS) personnel can figure out your mileage traveled and speed at which you traveled, when they consider the time interval. False reports call for a big fine.”
“We also require a number of hours of night driving at Coastal Bend College. Our training periods are during twelve-hour days. The safety classes we’ve talked about earlier are on more of an 8-to- 5 or 8-to-6 schedule. Driving classes are mostly twelvehour days.”