Jumpstarting the future

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GUERNSEY — When high school students at Guernsey High School were approached about the opportunity to acquire CDL licenses through the Commerical Drivers’ License (CDL) program at Eastern Wyoming College (EWC), three seniors jumped at the chance. To sweeten the deal, Guernsey High School is footing the bill. 

According to class descriptions at EWC, the course prepares students 18 years old or older to take the state required CDL test. The class is designed primarily for the energy service industry, and on-and-off-highway terrains are used during the physical training modules. Late model tractors, loaded trailers, tankers, and high center point-of-gravity loads may also be used during training. Simulation modules are also used to replicate dangerous, expensive or hard-to-duplicate real-life scenarios. When the student has completed the course, the student can then arrange to take the Department of Transportation (DOT) test and acquire their CDL. This 5 credit class is part of EWC’s Workforce Development Center. 

Guernsey seniors Tristan Hohnholt, Jack Baker, and Brody Sterner all have different reasons for acquiring their CDL. 

“Our principal Mrs. Sisson approached our class and asked if anyone was interested in the program,” Hohnholt said. “I’m really interested in starting my own trucking business; to be able to buy and own my own trucks and to hire my own drivers.” Hohnholt will have a jumpstart on this objective as he faces the end of his high school career and enters the secondary education and working world. 

Sterner explained “I’ve always been interested in the big vehicles. The CDL is a useful license. Plus, it looks good on a resume,” Sterner added. 

“I have been planning on taking the CDL training for a hot minute,” Jack Baker said. “I plan to go to school to be a diesel mechanic. It will be helpful to know how the big vehicles work and understand how they run.” Baker also explained that a diesel mechanic would work on any vehicle from one-ton trucks to commercial semis, such as a Freightliner® rig. “I could potentially even work on larger mining rigs,” he added. “I’m thinking about going to Sheridan or WYOTECH in Laramie.”

Holholdt explained that they recently toured the WYOTECH facility in Laramie. “It was a pretty sweet deal.” 

A physical exam, required by the DOT, and learner’s permit are required for taking the CDL classes, which are split into online modules, virtual-training modules, and final physical drivers’ training. The physical driving portion takes place in Torrington at EWC. The young men attend the online portion of the training during school hours, and must complete 12 hours of training, which includes the virtual driving modules. “We have 49 days to complete the training. Ideally, we complete one module per day for 49 days, but it is possible to finish more than one module per day,” Hohnholt said. 

“The classes are so in-depth,” Baker added. “They cover every scenario. There is a written test at the end of each module, and there are interactive components.” Another benefit is that these students will be many steps ahead of the curve without incurring debt. 

Sterner explained that while they drive on their learner’s permits, they cannot haul hazardous materials. “When you are below 21 and have a CDL you can only drive within your state,” he said. “Once you are 21 you can drive all over the country.” Some restrictions are due to insurance, but also due to the age of the licensed driver. 

Hohnholt, Baker, and Sterner will continue online training until March. Their 50 hours of hands-on driving will commence once the online modules have been completed and passed.