By Courtney Morris / Photos by Courtney Morris, San Jacinto College
Adam Stringer was that kid with his face squished against the backseat car window, magnetized as 18-wheelers cruised past on the highway. As a teen and 20-something, he spied the San Jacinto College Truck Driving Program commercial trucks parked at the Central Campus.
When Stringer considered switching careers after 16 years in I-HOP management, he felt the magnetic pull once again: “I decided, ‘Why not try truck driving school?’”
That decision, he said, ended up being “very good” to him.
With a nationwide truck driver deficit for more than two decades, the College’s truck driving program puts drivers trained in safety first on the road for a stable, self-driven career.
Give me liberty
Stringer numbers among many who have enrolled in the program wanting to change industries mid-career. John Stephens, co-instructor alongside Monica Cortes, said this is often a second or third career.
“The reasoning behind wanting to drive a truck is very different,” Stephens said. “Some have always been interested and never did do it. Others retired or wanted to change jobs and decided [they wanted] to travel.”
It’s also a growing field for women. In 2019, FreightWaves estimated more than 10 percent of over-the-road truck drivers are women — a 30 percent increase from 2018.
Brionne Boston, who completed San Jac’s program this spring, came from the chemical plant industry. Now in her 30s, she wanted to achieve financial independence, advance quickly, and see the country. She also craved flexibility.
“Home time was not really an option in my last career — it was many, many hours at the job site,” Boston said. “I’ve heard this is the best program, and in signing up, I’ve found out it really is…. The teachers, the equipment, everything — they go to the ends [of the earth] for you.”
Just as there are endless reasons to enroll, students have endless truck driving job options to explore.
“All walks of life come through here,” Stephens said. “They have their choice of schedule depending on the job they choose.”
Unlike some careers, truck drivers can easily switch jobs, choosing the right cargo, vehicle, and location for them. Houston area only? Check. Tri-state region? Check. Forty-eight contiguous states? Check.
And no matter what the economic climate, truck driving jobs abound. When customers need toilet paper, who else but a truck driver to transport it from warehouse to out-of-stock grocery store?
Choose your adventure
Stringer graduated from the College’s program in 2015. Although he maintains a safe driving record and does a physical every two years to keep his commercial driver’s license (CDL), he appreciates the industry stability.
“Having a CDL is like being a doctor. You can have a job anywhere around the world,” he said. “Once you have a CDL, no one can take it from you.”
Stringer has transferred goods statewide and nationwide. His experiences sound like Instagrammable moments — from crossing the Hoover Dam to delivering produce to an Orthodox Jewish grocer in the Bronx.
“The experience you get and the people you meet are awesome,” Stringer said. He laughs: “But the people from Texas are the nicest.”
Although he now manages 20 produce trucks as an at-home logistics specialist, in his most successful driving seasons he drew a $150,000 paycheck three years straight.
“If you make the right choices after school, you can do well financially,” he said. “I’m not selling a pipe dream.”
Do a pre-trip
Before their routes, drivers perform a pre-trip inspection, checking the truck, trailer, and load to address any issues. Similarly, Stephens recommends doing your homework before enrolling in San Jacinto College’s program.
“Start getting your information about different types of jobs,” he said. “Start checking out companies, seeing what is available, what will fit your lifestyle.”
Want to shift gears in your career? Might be time to hit the road.
Take the Wheel
Want to earn your CDL? San Jacinto College Continuing and Professional Development offers Professional Truck Driver I and II (CVOP 1013 and CVOP 1040):
- 240 hours of classroom instruction, demonstration, and hands-on tractor-trailer operations
- $4,200 for program, drug test, physical, and commercial learner’s permit and driver’s license
- Veteran and other grants available for those who qualify
Learn More: www.sanjac.edu/CDL