In Sept. 2 Issue
Their product goes nationwide, they have opened five branches around Kentucky, and three more are due to open soon. This Russell County business has been on the grow since they opened in 2006, with their largest expansion coming this year.
But what they produce isn't shipped in trucks, they drive them.
Lake Cumberland CDL Training School has partnered with the community college system and is training men and women in Elizabethtown, Middlesboro, Mayesville, Ashville, and Somerset now in addition to the school they still operate in Russell Springs.
Cindi Alexander, the schools director, explained that the course is 4-weeks long and if taken at one of the community college offices it comes with college credit hours.
After a week of in-class training the students are up in the cab of a "big-rig" on the driving range and then out on the roads.
"We teach them how to handle the truck and trailer. How to back it how to go through the gears out here on the range before we take them out on the road," Alexander said.
They have a 93 percent placement record overall, and Alexander said they've had as much as 97 percent placement recently as more and more trucking jobs are opening up.
"Yes, there are a lot of truckers who have been on the road who are retiring now and the companies are looking for drivers," she explained.
She added that many of those who weren't placed in a job already had one lined up before they came to school.
"They came to school planning to drive for their uncle or with a job driving a dump truck or a garbage truck or something," Alexander said.
With over the road drivers making between $30,000 and $36,000 a year in their first year plus benefits like health insurance and retirement plans she said jobs are attractive.
Glen Wilham, the school's founder and president, said the growth in the industry at large helps, but their success in teaching students the skills they need to pass their test, and solid record of job placement for graduates is attributable to the instructors.
"I'm proud of what this business has accomplished," Wilham said. "Cindi and I haven't done this all by ourselves. None of this would have been possible without all of our great instructors."
Jessee Arnold, the instructor who heads up the school in Elizabethtown, retired from the Marine Corps as a truck driver and then spend years more driving over the road for companies and as an owner operator.
Wilham himself was a company driver, and then an owner operator who grew into owning a small fleet of trucks before he decided to open the school.
"I'd been thinking about this, then when fuel prices went so high and then the economy went south it just seemed like a good time to start the school," Wilham said.
Now as the other schools train students from across Kentucky the Russell Springs campus has students this week from Monticello, Columbia, Shelby County and right here in Russell Springs.
Where they are going is as varied as where they are from.
"I was going to drive a dump truck," said Brian Dean. "But I've been talking to one of the recruiters about driving a flat-bed."
Dean, a third-week student this week, said he was impressed with the pay, and since he had mostly done farm work in the past he didn't have a large work-history so he'd be starting out on the flat-bed trucks which are generally the less attractive jobs due to the amount of physical labor often required of drivers.
Given the range of job types, and the way, "trucking gets into your blood," Alexander said 85 percent of new drivers are still on the road 5 years after starting.
She added that established company drivers can expect to be making $50,000 to $52,000 a year, with full benefits.
"A lot of it depends on how much you want to be on the road," Alexander explained.
As to the training she said most of those who start, finish.
"About 98 percent finish the training," she said.
They've had lots of local students plus others from Ohio, Michigan even Australia and eight of the graduates have been women.
Wilham said there hasn't been anyone who finished the school and truly wanted to pass the driving test, who has not earned their license.
He added that nearly all of those who start the classes finish them.
"Eighty to 90 percent of the students have their tuition paid for them," Wilham added. "Either vocational rehab or workforce development or the Kentucky Farm Workers program."
He said that some of the programs not only pay for the training, but will pay the students a wage while they are in training.
There are also programs where a company that will pre-hire the student will pay the school back for the training after the student works so many months as a driver.
Alexander added that they have offered weekend classes, and are considering night classes. With a $3,890 cash price the classes are less expensive than many schools, but not something one is likely to do on a whim.
Wilham said there are schools charging from $4,500 to $6,000 for the classes in Kentucky and Tennessee.
There are ways to find the money for classes for most students who face issues of paying the $3,890.
But there is one misconception she said has to be corrected early with many students.
"After four weeks training students take the test for their CDL," said Alexander said. "We teach them to drive and to pass their test, they become truckers out there on the road."