MIDWEST TECHNICAL INSTITUTE — EAST PEORIA
280 High Point Lane
East Peoria, IL 61611
MON–FRI: 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM
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280 High Point Lane
East Peoria, IL 61611
MON–FRI: 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM
Joining us on this episode is Robert mcgowin, the cdl/Truck driving program director for Midwest Technical Institute and Delta Technical College.
Midwest Technical Institute and Delta Technical College have six locations, located in Illinois, Missouri, and Mississippi. They are accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.
Bob Martin: Joining us today in this edition of Imagine America Radio is Robert McGowin, commercial driving licensed and professional truck driver instructor at Midwest Technical Institute and Delta Technical College. We’re going to be talking about careers in truck driving with Robert. As a leading provider of education in commercial truck driving, we couldn’t think of anyone better to talk to today or to answer some of our questions than Robert McGowin.
Let’s start out for our listener’s benefit and go over very quickly—in your mind, Robert—what is a commercial truck driver? And just, on a daily basis, what are they doing for us?
Robert McGowin: Okay. A commercial truck driver, they do a lot of things. They don’t just take product to point A to point B, which they do that—but also they are responsible for the load that they carry, what shape it is in when they get to their destination. So if there’s rough roads, they got to be driving carefully if the roads are rough so the product won’t fall over or anything. You’re also responsible for paperwork. Most important, being safe on the road and watching out for other drivers—not just paying attention to what they do, but they’re paying attention to what other people are doing too.
Truck drivers are held at a higher standard than most vehicle drivers because they did a lot of training, and they got eighty thousand pounds going down the road. So, they have to be really careful about doing that. If you think about it, everything that you see at one time or another has been on a truck somewhere in its lifetime. So trucking is really important for the United States; I think it’s the backbone of the economy.
Bob: I guess I would say truck driving—you put the essential in essential jobs, huh?
Robert: Yes, it is. It’s a really essential job. And it was one of the essential jobs during the pandemic. The trucking didn’t stop. We kept everything going.
Lee Doubleday: Well, Robert, this is Lee. Let’s talk about jobs for a second. What does a career outlook look like for truck drivers, maybe both at a national level and then a little more granular in the states where you have campuses?
Robert: According to the BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics], by 2029, it’s projected that there will be need to hire over two million truck drivers across the country. And that’s a lot. And just in Illinois, Missouri, and Mississippi—and that’s where we have our technical colleges at—alone, in the same time frame, they need over 70,600 truck drivers is needed in the same time period. We’re talking a lot of truck drivers are needed.
Lee: Well, with truck driving being in such high demand, it seems like something worth getting an education in. Should someone go to school to learn how to be a truck driver? And what does a typical program include? And how long is a typical truck driving program? Sort of a three-parted question there.
Robert: Okay. Yes, they should go to school. Before long, a person will have to go to some kind of school. The FMCSA, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association, will require it. Trucking is a really heavily regulated program. You got state regulations. You got federal regulations. So, they’re passing a bill that is called ELDT that if you want to CDL and become a truck driver, you’re going to have to go to some kind of school and be registered with the state to get a CDL.
And typical, a program includes learning a pre-trip inspection, if your truck is safe to drive. You’ve got to make sure—that’s up to the driver to make sure that tractor and trailer is safe to go out on the road. And then the program, you also learn how to do back-in maneuvers safely, different types of back-in maneuvers, learn how to handle the trailer, and then also, most important, is learning how to drive the tractor-trailer safely. And then you pass the state to get your CDL.
The typical truck driving program usually last—it depends on your needs. They last three to four weeks. That’s just to get your CDL if you want. We offer both three and four weeks, but we also offer a five-month program for the professional truck driving department. What that does, we teach them the trucking industry as a whole. So, you’re not just learning how to back and how to drive and do the pre-trip, but we also teach students preventive maintenance on the truck, health and wellness. Health and wellness is really important when you’re out there on the road four days at a time. We teach space management, speed management, logbooks. Of course, logbooks we got electronic logs now. And we got electronic logs that we teach students how to do that. And we also teach map reading and trip planning. Sometimes GPS go out or take you in the wrong direction, well, we teach them how to read the Atlas and how to find their way the old school way, I guess and the way I used to do it by reading the map. So, the PTD five-month program, it teaches a student about the trucking industry as a whole.
Lee: Now, Robert, I think you’ve basically just outlined what my next question was going to be, which is let’s say I’m someone interested in becoming a truck driver, when I tour a campus or a program, what are a few things that I should be looking for? It sounds like you just said, “Number one, you need to be looking to make sure the school is accredited. Number two, you want to look at the length of the program to know how long you’re going to need to be in school. And then number three, you want to work with a school that has relationships with employers because, at the end of the day, that’s what’s important. And that’s the right reason why you’re going to school is to make sure that you’re employed.”
Is there anything else that a student might want to consider when looking at a school? Maybe the technology the school uses or the trucks that they have to practice on?
Robert: Yeah, definitely. The equipment is a big thing. You also want to look at the staff. Meet the staff. If they’re experienced, how long have they been driving? They’ve been out there a while. They know what they’re talking about. The experience of the staff is really big. Another really big thing to look at, if I was a new student and checking out a school, is the student-to-instructor ratio. So, we keep our student-to-instructor ratio low, so we accommodate the students and they can have their behind-the-wheel time in the period allotted.
Bob: So, Robert, you’ve been in this business a long time. You’ve seen people come and go. You’ve see students come and go. You’ve see ones that have been successful and maybe ones that haven’t been as successful as you would have wanted. What do you think are the three or four personality traits that’s going to lead to a successful student, to a successful placement for employers to hire? What do you think?
Robert: Definitely, you got to have—for one, you got to have patience. In the industry, you take product point A to point B. And you’re waiting on other people to offload, you got to unload and whatever. And you can’t get mad if they’re a little late. And it just comes with what we say in trucking, it’s just trucking. So, you got to have a lot of patience.
Another thing is you’ve got to have good work ethic. You’ve got X amount of hours to drive in a day. Use all them hours up. Don’t stop at every truck stop here and there and take too long. A really good work ethic goes a long way.
Another thing, a good driving record. Even in your personal vehicle, you want to make sure you have a good record. We tell our students that once you get your CDL, you need to protect it. Don’t get caught speeding or don’t do careless, reckless driving. Everything goes against your CDL. So once you get it, you’ve got to protect it. So, you need a good driving record.
And the fourth thing is punctuality, being on time. Trucking is an on-time business. You’ve got to be in point A at a certain time or point B at a certain time. So, what we tell our students, “If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re a little early, you’re on time.” So being on time is really big for trucking.
Bob: So, patience, good work ethic, good driving record, and punctuality.
Robert: Yes, sir.
Bob: That’s excellent. We want to thank today’s guest, Robert McGowin with Midwest Technical Institute and Delta Technical College. Today’s topic has been truck driving careers. Before we close, we want to take all of our audience for taking time out of their busy schedules, and hope you’ll have an absolutely great day.