Lufkin truck driving school teams up with transportation firms in answer to critical driver shortage

Truck driving instructor Don Pittmon backs up a big rig. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Truck driving instructor Don Pittmon backs up a big rig. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Lufkin Truck Driving Academy owner Kimberly Hill guides a semi-truck to a stop. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Lufkin Truck Driving Academy owner Kimberly Hill guides a semi-truck to a stop. (Source: KTRE Staff)

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The rise of online shopping is creating another demand in East Texas and around the country.

Truck drivers are in high demand, giving many people new career paths.

East Texas News visited the Lufkin Truck Driving Academy, where enrollment remains steady.

Randy Neveu needs work, so long hauls, coast to coast, are in his future. It begins at the Lufkin Truck Driving Academy.

"I'm from Lufkin and it's no jobs here," Neveu said. "They shut down Lufkin Industries, Texas Foundry, paper mill, so it's about the best thing, as a career for me."

Noveu's new career will begin with Schneider, a trucking company affected by the shortage of truck drivers. The Wisconsin-based company depends on Lufkin Truck Driving Academy owner Kimberly Hill for drivers.

"They're willing to pay for their tuition to come to school here as long as they would sign a contract, so that in itself in going to bring more jobs to Lufkin and also give us more students," Hill said.

truck driving doesn't come without roadblocks. There are often long waits to take the test for a Class A license. Federal mandates locking down on safety and accountability have reduced the number of testing centers to 25 in Texas.

"It's not going to be like it used to be where you could run over to DPS and drive up and tell them you want a driving test," said Don Pittmon, an instructor. "Now you got to have 3-4 weeks or longer sometimes, to make an appointment to do your driving test. So, that's what was really hanging things up right there."

It's a big step to climb into a semi-truck. The rules, regulations, and open road aren't for everyone.

"No missing nuts or bolts on my hoses," said Gerald Dennis, a truck driving student.

Dennis goes over an extensive pre-planning check list. Short hauls are his preference and not necessarily in an 18-wheeler.

"I could go drive a dump truck. I could drive a garbage truck," Dennis said. "I could drive just about anything in the world and get a job just about anywhere in the country with my Class A."

Job openings are at regional warehouses run by companies anxious to deliver products of all kinds in a timely manner.

"That's also giving the opportunity for trucking companies to get their drivers home on a more regular basis on a dedicated run," Hill said.

Whether it's a short haul or a long haul, both kinds of drivers are in demand.

Trucking companies are attracted to Deep East Texas because of its higher regional unemployment and its proximity to Houston, Dallas, and Shreveport. They're all major warehouse districts.

Copyright 2018 KTRE. All rights reserved.