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Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

Driving for Success

Rodney Wiseman worked as a small-engine mechanic for 20 years, but he wanted the stability of a job with retirement and insurance benefits.

Rodney Wiseman worked as a small-engine mechanic for 20 years, but he wanted the stability of a job with retirement and insurance benefits.

“It was time for me to make a change,” Wiseman said.

He became the first graduate of Johnson County Community College’s new Commercial Driver’s License program and immediately put his skills to use.

Wiseman (pictured) applied for only one job – his ideal job – at McLane Foodservice, which delivers to regional restaurants. He was hired quickly, and Wiseman calls the job his “golden ticket.”

He had some experience pulling trailers in both his day job and in moonlighting as a deejay for wedding receptions. The experiences helped him when he pursued a commercial driver’s license, he said.

Still, “there is a lot more to this profession than most people realize,” Wiseman said. “And there is no other program out there like the one at JCCC.”

Enrollment for the program is now open. Classes begin March 24 and end May 2.

The demand for drivers with CDL licenses is increasing as the current workforce ages faster than younger drivers can replace them. Also, new regulations limit the number of hours each driver can spend on the road, which further increases the demand.

Benjamin Eldridge also graduated from the CDL program. After spending eight years in the Navy, Eldridge wanted a career where he could work independently, where each day would have new challenges and where he wouldn’t be stuck indoors behind a desk.

For his employer, Santa Fe Tow Service, he drives tractor trailers full of goods from intermodal hubs across the region to their ultimate destination. It’s a special division of the business that originally started with tow trucks only and is now expanding into freight delivery.

“I stumbled into the towing industry, and I found I really liked it,” Eldridge said. “I came to JCCC because I wanted to expand my abilities and further my potential in the field.”

He said he used financial aid available to him through his military service to pay for the tuition, and the small classes and experienced instructors made the cost of both tuition and time commitment worthwhile in the end.

“There were days when I was working 12-hour days, and then six hours of classes a day on top of that,” he said. “I’d go to class in the morning, then work the noon to midnight shift for the tow company. When I left in the morning, my kids were asleep, and when I got home at night, my kids were asleep.”

Thankfully, the CDL program was relatively short (six weeks), and Eldridge’s employer let him use dinner breaks to catch up with family.

“I’d still say it was worth it, though,” Eldridge said. “If someone I knew was looking into getting a CDL license, I would definitely recommend JCCC.”

Students must meet certain requirements to enroll, but once they meet those requirements, they receive one-on-one attention from experienced instructors using up-to-date equipment.

For more information on the program, email Phil Wegman, program director for skills enhancement in continuing education at JCCC.

Rodney Wiseman