Driving simulator steers students to become commercial truck drivers

Local News

PATTERSON, Calif. (KTXL) — One school district is steering some students into technical careers using some novel technology.

Patterson Joint Unified School District is one of the first in the country to address a nationwide shortage of truck drivers by training seniors using a driving simulator.

For student Isaias Bañuelos, the district’s truck driving program is an opportunity to follow in his father’s footsteps.

“My dad used to be a truck driver and I like truck driving, so it’s a good fit,” Bañuelos said. “My goal going forward is probably to finish truck driving, get my Class A license, and then once I have a little bit of experience, probably trying to go over the road.”

Once complete, students can enroll in the district’s adult education program where they can get their behind-the-wheel training and, eventually, earn their commercial driver’s license.

Patterson High School teacher Dave Dein is sharing his passion for trucking.

“We need to create a career path for these students that want to enter into this industry,” Dein said. “I still drive today; I never left trucking.”

Dein said the nation’s shortage of truck drivers is expected to hit 170,000 in the next five to seven years. This past summer, he switched gears and got back on the road — on a mission to help with the supply chain crisis and to raise money for his nonprofit, Next Generation of Trucking Foundation.

“It’s really about getting more young people into this industry at a younger age,” Dein said. “We’re going to use that money to help underserved students that don’t have the final financial resources to enter into the trucking industry by attending a CDL school.”

Some drivers are making more than $100,000 a year because they’re so in-demand.

But for Bañuelos, travel — not money — is his driving force.

“The thing that I look forward to driving trucks is seeing the U.S., what other states have to offer and the views that they have,” Bañuelos said.

Dein said his goal is for school districts across the country is for them to replicate the Patterson program and create a pipeline to end the national driver shortage.

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