MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Five years ago, the California Career School decided to take their truck driving courses to service members on military bases throughout the Southern California area. Since then, more than 2,500 veterans have gone through the training and have received lifelong job placement assistance from the school. There have been more than 250 former Marines and Sailors from the Combat Center in this statistic, said Ken Enfinger, military representative, California Career School.
More than 70 percent of manufactured products are distributed through trucking, keeping the demand for truckers high and the job almost recession-proof, said Enfinger. The pay steadily rises each year, going from $38,000 to $44,000 per year in 2005 to $41,000 to $48,000 per year as starting pay in 2006. In five-to-six years, truck drivers could possibly earn a six-figure income annually.
“Whether you’ve never had a license, or your military occupational specialty is motor transportation driver, the course is straightforward enough for anyone to accomplish,” he said.
The cost of the nationally accredited school allows service members to use the tuition assistance program and their Montgomery G.I. Bill to pay for the tuition costs of $4,295 to $5,370, depending on the types of endorsements wanted on the license. Endorsements are certifications for truck drivers to transport or handle specific items and equipment. Those available from the school include passenger, double and triple trailers, and hazardous materials, explained Enfinger.
The course lasts four to six weeks during evening hours Monday through Thursday and in the morning on weekends. The class is all hands-on learning with five to 12 students per class, enabling more individual attention.
“It’s a good backup plan to have at your disposal,” said Lance Cpl. Chris Forest, anti-tank assaultman, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. “I decided to go to college, but I still want to have this in my background to use at any time. There is always a need for truck drivers.”
Anthony O. Hall, course instructor, went through the course more than two years ago before retiring as a gunnery sergeant from the Combat Center. Hall was a motor transportation driver during his career in the Marine Corps.
“Having the background in driving helped a little, but anyone who applies themselves can successfully complete the course,” said Hall. “Students who have never driven a manual transmission learn how to drive a 10-speed and double clutch in three weeks.”
“It’s a great opportunity to learn an easy skill that is always needed in the job market,” he said. “It’s for anyone who loves to drive.”
The license doesn’t lock in a long-range trucking career, meaning not all licensed truck drivers will be employed to drive across the nation. That doesn’t mean there aren’t big bucks working locally, where you go home every night. There are plenty of local and part-time jobs available everywhere in the country. A former Marine, who took the course two months ago, is now employed by a contractor on this base earning $40 per hour, said Enfinger.
The school also offers a 40-hour behind-the-wheel skills-refresher course for those who have already graduated the course and need to brush up on the skills and laws before entering the civilian work force.