IITR Trucking School
I want to warn everyone that this post is going to be a long one, I will try to be as fair and objective as possible, but I refuse to sugar coat anything either. Lord knows, I am certainly no expert on the subject. My only interest is sharing my own personal experiences, observations, and opinions with those who are considering spending a lot of money attending an independent trucking school. Again, this is only my perspective, yours might be different. So please accept my apologies in advance for the length of this post.
Last May (2008) I attended IITR Trucking School, boasting to be one of the only *cough* "accredited" trucking schools in the nation. They have several locations in Oregon, and my campus was probably one of their largest being located in Clackamas, OR.
Now, before I really get going here let me say... I am far from stupid. I did (or thought I did), my homework before signing up. I looked them up on the internet, went to the campus in person and talked to their placement director. I even spoke to a former student. After all, I wanted to make an informed decision. But as usual, in hindsight, what I should have done was talk to alot more of their students (past and present). I honestly don't know if our training experiences were an exception or the norm for this type of business. Yes, I said business, not school. Don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge anyone the right to earn enough to cover costs and equipment while making a decent living. Yes, "its the American way", but after doing the math, (I used to be in banking), its hard not to wonder if its just another way to take advantage of the hopeful, but poor, unemployed folks who are just trying to better their own lives.
In all honesty, other than teaching us only the most basic of basics needed to obtain a CDL, when it came to actually providing what was promised, they "failed to deliver the load". The general class consensus was that they weren't in it to create competent safe drivers so much as they were in it to make a whole bunch of big bucks. So now the big question... how would I rate them overall.
On a scale from 1 to 10, I have to be honest and rate them a weak 5.5 out of 10. If it wasn't for the road instructors, it would be a 3 or less. But despite everything, I did manage to pass my pretrip exam and driving test and got my CDL. Now if I could just find a job ;)
Now for the "bucks", how much was training you ask, well it was ALOT!
I was extremely lucky enough learn about, and qualify for, a small government program that paid for everything. Most are not that fortunate. With one exception, everyone in my class had to borrow their tuition money. For the most part the average expense was in excess of $5,600.00 just to get to the point where we were ready to "test out".
Remember, that doesn't include added costs like meals, fuel to and from school, or paying a 2nd rent if you must stay in student housing.
I have no idea what you might get for your money, but this is what we got... We of course got our "driver" training, as well as, a Rand McNally Motor Carrier's Road Atlas, a FMC Safety Regulation pocketbook, a plastic ruler, a baseball cap, and a nifty light up pen that died a week after graduation. (It really was a cool pen, I was mad when it died.) We also got a coffee mug full of candy, and a 3x5 class picture. Yep, training covered everything, including giving us a head start on a junk food diet. *chuckle*
We had 3 sections of training to complete (classroom, yard, and driving). This was all crammed into 10 hour days over a period of 5 weeks. Their literature and website promised classes no larger than 18 students per class, we had 23 (not including 3 or 4 more that joined us from previous classes for the yard and driving sections of our training). Made me feel like a cow in a feed lot. Line up, and hurry and eat this information so we can send you out to slaughter and clean the barn for the next herd.
We were also told we had lifetime placement assistance. For me, it consisted of a 5 minute conversation where I stated I was interested in flatbedding, only to be handed a couple sheets of paper listing trucking companies (not one of which used flatbed trailers), and sent back to class. Frankly, I would have gotten more help from a phone book. Thank God for the internet.
Now let me take you through each section of their "accredited" training program.
1. Classroom: For the most part the classroom lessons were interesting and informative (With the exception of having to relive grade school memories while watching outdated filmstrips - err i mean dvds. They covered the basics like trip planning, reading a road atlas, dealing with HazMat, and filling out log books. Our instructor was knowledgeable, and a retired trucker herself. They had recruiters bring in lunch goodies to eat while they chatted about what they had to offer. Sounds normal enough huh?
Sadly, it dawned on me something wasn't quite right. During the classroom courses the guy next to me (who didn't speak english very well) was having trouble understanding the terminology. Concerned, I privately brought this to the instructors attention and explained that he was embarrassed to ask for help. Her response was, "It was nice of you to tell me about this, and I am sure that with your help he will do just fine". Uhh, WHAT?!? Wait a minute here...
Who was getting paid to do this? It wasn't my job or responsibility to help him, but after her dismissive response, it was only right to care enough about his ability to support his family and help him graduate. Which he did. (I was so proud :). But I guess the thousands of dollars he paid for classes didn't include being treated with a little courtesy and compassion by the staff.
2. Yard: Here is where things get more disturbing. The equipment in the yard was JUNK. Mirrors falling off, bare wires that shocked us, doors that would not close, missing vital parts, even leaking air systems. When we told the instructors about the problems we were told, and i quote "just pretend it works, or just pretend its there". I mean What The F***?
For most of us this was the first time we had been near these huge highway beasts. We needed to know when something isn't where it should be. We needed to know when something is and isn't working properly. Just how does one do that when the equipment you learned on doesn't work properly or is missing altogether?
I understand these are "training trucks" and it would be just stupid to abuse new trucks with newbies frying the clutches out of them. But come on, these trucks made the hideous wrecks I have seen coming out of Mexico look brand new.
We were here to learn how to back up, couple and uncouple trailers, slide axles, install snow chains, adjust brakes, and commit to memory the horrors of "The PreTrip Inspection!" At one point, I insisted that they allow a few of us to pretrip one of the road trucks we would actually be tested in so we would be familiar with what a road worthy truck actually was before being tested by the state.
We were also graded on each area, and if we failed the first time, we had to accept a grade of 70% regardless of how well you did the second time. This means if the guy before you backed up really crooked, too bad for you. They didn't bother to make the testing fair by making sure each test started with a truck parked in a consistent start position. There were also cases where the instructor was not paying attention while testing various students on the pretrip. Even though the students correctly identified and physically checked the equipment, because the instructor was spacing out and missed it, they were given a failing grade "for not doing it right". Yes, it was frustrating and to some a minor thing. But on the other hand, these kinds of inconsistencies had the potential to cause major problems down the line by adversely affecting our overall GPA. That lovely little number is used by some companies as part of their hiring criteria.
3. Driving. YAY! It was eye opening, scary, and way fun! After graduating, I learned that the Albany, OR campus had given each of their students 40hrs of driving time, while we got a total of 15. Because they had over crowded our classes, our time behind the wheel was greatly reduced to ensure everyone had a chance drive. While they did offer us the chance to request extra drive time, they also charged $100.00 per hour for it.
Now, the road instructors were great, and it took alot to rattle them to the point of raising their voices. While it was against IITR policy to teach us how to "float gears", overall they were helpful, and went out of their way to make sure we understood what they were trying to teach us. They treated our insecurities and fears with kindness and understanding. And even though we had to be quiet so whomever was driving could concentrate, they never failed to take the time to share stories and put our nerves at ease with a good laugh.
Sometimes they had to be very creative with their instructions. Calmly communicating using terms that were specifically individualized to fit the student's comprehension level while not sounding condescending. I can't say enough about them, and to this day, wish they had been our instructors from beginning to end.
So thats about it, and if you have managed to make it this far, I applaud you. I hope some of what I shared was helpful.
This is literally my very first visit to the website, and I'm not sure if this is the type of post our host had in mind when he requested input about trucking schools. To him I say, please don't hesitate to delete this if its not what you wanted. It won't hurt my feelings one bit. I just felt compelled to share my experiences with IITR with your readers, and being a female driver, I will be kind and resist the urge post in the "Women in Trucking" section :)
Catch ya on the flipside!