The U.S. Department of Transportation recently awarded $95,726 to Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College to train active duty military service members, veterans and their families in careers as commercial truck and bus drivers.
All current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces, including National Guard and Reservists, as well as their spouses and children are eligible for the grant, which covers full tuition for OCtech’s Professional Truck Driving program. The grant is from the USDOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Commercial Motor Vehicle Operator Safety Training Grant Program.
Transportation, distribution and logistics companies actively recruit OCtech’s truck driving graduates, offering competitive wages and benefits. The college’s small class size allows for more personalized instruction. Upon completion of the one-semester program, students have 16 college credit hours.
This is not the first time OCtech has received a grant to help military service members, veterans and their families earn their CDL. Floyd Dillard and Marcus Price were so impressed with OCtech’s Professional Truck Driving program that they both now work as adjunct instructors helping other men and women enter the growing field.
“I drove over the road for a produce company for almost 10 years, but when I went back on active duty, I let my license go. I wanted to get it back,” said Dillard, who officially retired from his personnel position in the Army National Guard after 29 years of service in September. “We kept hearing about a grant to help military personnel and veterans get their CDL. Marcus and I were the first two students who got the grant in our unit.”
Both men trained at OCtech in spring 2014. Dillard returned as an adjunct in fall 2016, and Marcus began teaching in spring 2017.
“I’ll have 30 years in the Guard in November,” Price said. “Truck driving is my primary MOS (military occupational specialty). When I joined the military, we drove manual shift vehicles, but then they switched to automatics and I lost those skills. When Dillard told me about this, I rushed out here and was the last person to make the class that semester.”
Price said truck driving is a great opportunity for service men and women – and even civilians – to get trained in a career that will serve them well for years to come.
“A lot of the guys in my old transportation unit in the Reserves are retiring now,” he said. “I tell them this is a good option, and I always mention it to the transportation personnel in the National Guard every time I see them, especially those who might not be working a full-time job or are looking for a career change. Yes, I’m active duty right now, but when I retire, who’s not going to pick me up with a CDL in my pocket and a military background?”
The cost of getting a CDL can be cumbersome, Dillard said, so the USDOT grant for service members, veterans and their families and the Pell Grant for other individuals are a great deal.
“You get more out of OCtech’s program in 16 weeks than you do going someplace where you get only eight to 10 weeks of training,” he said. “It’s a small commitment for a big reward. We give you the experience and time behind the wheel that you can’t get anywhere else.”
Professional Truck Driving is offered spring, summer and fall semesters at OCtech. Day and evening classes are available. Spring classes begin Monday, Jan. 7.
“We start from the ground and build you all of the way up to your CDL,” Price said. “You can come to this program not knowing a thing about truck driving, but if you have the heart and desire, we’ll get you there.”
Program applicants need a current copy of their South Carolina driver’s license, a current certified copy of their 10-year driving record from the Department of Motor Vehicles and a current SLED check, which can be obtained from www.sled.sc.gov. Additionally, applicants must be able to read, write and speak English.
For more information, contact Program Coordinator LaMont Kennedy at 803.535.1339 or email@example.com.