Path Home Shows 2017 Show Archive June 2017 Show 1725 Safety: Future Truckers

Safety: Future Truckers

Future truck drivers are put through the paces of safe driving at Central Tech’s SkillsUSA Truck Driving Contest.
Safety: Future Truckers

Safety: Future Truckers

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Central Technology Center

Oklahoma SkillsUSA


Oklahoma Highway Patrol


Show Details

Show 1725: Safety: Future Truckers
Air Date: June 18, 2017



Rob McClendon: No matter what trail you head out on this summer, one thing’s for sure – you’ll be sharing it with lots of semitrucks and trailers. In the face of a truck driver shortage, there is a new drive to train people for a career on the road, and a big part of that training is safety. Our Blane Singletary takes us to a statewide competition, where safety is key.

Blane Singletary: While inclement weather may cause some competitions to be called off, at the SkillsUSA Truck Driving Contest, the rain becomes part of the challenge.

Darren Rose: It’s a different type of challenge as well.

Blane: That’s Lt. Darrin Rose of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. He’s one of the judges for the 90-degree backing section of the contest.

Darren Rose: Not only are these contestants under the strain and pressure of being judged and trying to do it right and having somebody looking over them and judging everything that they do, now they’ve got to deal with the elements.

Blane: That might not sound fair, but Lt. Rose says that makes it all the more real.

Darren Rose: It does make it harder to see, harder to use your mirrors because you have water and fog on your mirrors and your windshield and everything else like that. But you know that’s life in and of itself. You’re going to have rain, you’re going to have snow, you’re going to have sunny days.

Blane: Student truck drivers from a handful of tech center programs around Oklahoma have converged at Central Tech in Drumright for this first of its kind competition in the state. John Thorpe is the assistant program director at Central Tech and says this day is really all about reinforcing safe practices on the road.

John Thorpe: Well, you know our school is designed around safety, and SkillsUSA encouraged us to start the very first truck driver training SkillsUSA competition in the state of Oklahoma.

Blane: Aside from the 90-degree backing, these students are also tested on a pre-trip check and even interview skills.

John Thorpe: These are real-world situations. The 90-degree back is something that they’ll be faced every day when they’re at work. The interview process that they go through is part of the everyday real world when they go apply for jobs. And then of course the pre-trip inspection is something they’ll do every single morning -- pre-trip and post-trip that truck every single day.

Blane: Part of the way they make these situations real is by having real-world industry partners judge and assist with the contest. Along with the OHP, Oklahoma DPS troopers help judge the pre-check portion, similar to how they would when these students apply for a commercial driver’s license.

John Thorpe: Our main objective here is to take the top students that we have in our programs right now, put them together and have a competition, and see who’s the best. And, man, they’d hire these guys today. If they can, they’ll hire them today.

Blane: It’s a two-way street. Not only does this give students the opportunity to get up close and personal with industry leaders, but Josh Rhodes of Premiere Truck Group says this gives them a chance to get to know potential applicants at a time they need them most.

Josh Rhodes: There’s a pretty good driver shortage out there, and that’s led to a lot of issues with a lot of carriers. The students that are here in the vocational system in Oklahoma I can tell you are very exceptional. I really enjoy our involvement with them because it allows us to not only help, kind of bridge the students over into some of their final job placements, but it adds a lot of value here in our industry because we can develop good local drivers for the carriers we have here in Oklahoma.

Blane: This program has a pretty quick turnaround, with students going from their first time behind the wheel of these big rigs to being license exam ready in about a month’s time. Donnie Tulk, truck driving coordinator at Central Tech, says going hands-on, like the students are doing today, is the secret to quick and effective training.

Donnie Tulk: You can’t learn to drive a truck in the classroom reading out of a school book or watching videos. It is a hands-on profession.

Blane: And what these instructors and industry partners can agree on is that the next generation of truck drivers is in good hands.

Donnie Tulk: A lot of well-prepared students, a lot of skilled students were out here today, and I think the trucking industry is going to be in good hands with these students with the proper entry level training.

Blane: And this is just the beginning. John Thorpe has big plans for when contest time comes around next year.

John Thorpe: More people, more contestants, more skills. We’re probably going to add an offset back, we’re actually going to add a drive. Yeah, it’s going to be a much longer and probably more invasive contest next year.

Rob: Well, truck driving is just one of many competitions within SkillsUSA. To see even more of what they do, we have plenty of their stories on our website at