For most entry level truck drivers, the decision to pursue an entirely new industry comes down to one thing – the desire to provide a better life for themselves and their families. Sometimes there’s the rare case where an individual is retired and is looking to see the country in their later years while making some extra dough, but for many, the desire to overcome financial hardship leads them to pursue a trucking job. In trucking, there are many areas for advancement as opposed to the dead-end jobs many are stuck with in today’s economy.
In Part 2 of our interview with recent Driver Solutions grad Debra Garcia (view Part 1 here), she discusses her reasoning for pursuing a career in truck driving and details her experience with CDL training at C1 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Keep reading to hear more about Debra’s experience.
Tell us a little bit about your experience with Driver Solutions?
Well, about 6 weeks ago I decided I needed a better paying job because I have a son in college and a daughter who's about to be a freshman in high school. I'm actually a certified phlebotomist. I got my degree in 2010 and I'm really proud of that, but I couldn't find a job. I kept seeing all these ads for truck driving jobs and wondered if I could do it. I saw your ad for PAM Transport and went ahead and applied. The next day, I got the call from my Driver Agent, and soon all the paperwork was done and I found myself at C1 in Fort Wayne. Four weeks later, I had my CDL! It really was that fast. I am just so thrilled.
What was the final push in you becoming a truck driver?
The biggest thing was that I'm a single parent and I couldn't afford to pay for CDL training myself. The big push was that it would be paid for -- that was the incentive for me.
What was it like for you getting in a truck for the first time?
I was terrified -- I was absolutely petrified. The instructors are awesome though and they make every student feel welcome. They make you feel like you're number one and the most important person in their life. They made me feel like it was just me. And every student felt that way about the instructors. It was like how a grandma makes every grandkid feel like they're the number one. That's what these people did. I can't gush enough about them because they're just awesome.
How did the instructors work with you and what did they do to help you succeed?
Well, I didn't get any extra attention or anything because I didn't want to be singled out. But one female instructor, Diane, quietly came up to me and told me to talk to her. She told me that I could do this, and it wasn't that difficult. The instructors just kept telling me that I was making it harder than it really was and that they would work with me every step of the way.
When I got close to testing, they stayed over 2 on 1 (two students with one instructor) and it was what I needed. They just knew what I personally needed and I watched them do that with all the other students. I don't know how they do it but they're just really good at their job. I'm just amazed. I watched the instructors seem to know what was necessary for their students. I don't know how they do it, but I am so impressed.
Have you always liked to drive?
Yeah, I love to drive. My own personal experience is that I'm from Indiana originally. I moved to California in 1988 and we drove the whole way. When the economy took a hit in 2008, I brought my kids back to Indy after my marriage fell apart. We weren't satisfied there, so I moved back to California in 2011 and thought maybe the economy was a little better. So we got back to Cali and realized that no, it wasn't, it's still too expensive to survive out there, so back to Indiana we came in 2012. So, I must like that kind of life -- driving. The money was appealing, but I really do like seeing the country.
Are there any particular states or places you want to see?
I haven't done the east coast, besides New York and Washington DC, or southern states like Alabama, Georgia, or Mississippi. I haven't been down there, so my goal is to hit all 48 contiguous states. I know I can't drive my truck to Hawaii and I wouldn't want to drive to Alaska. Who knows, maybe I will, but I do want to say I've been to all 48 states in this country.
What's your financial plan for your new career?
I want to help pay for my son's college and just be able to support my kids so they can have things. I've just been able to pay the bills after my marriage broke up. It's a treat to go to McDonald's, and I don't want that to be something special. I want to be able to do normal things and give my kids the normal life they had before.