PTDI boosts number of certified schools

It's been decades since I last said "See you in September" to someone before heading off to enjoy the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer without the workaday world intruding.

It's hard now to imagine summer ever was a time of "no more pencils, no more books..." On the other hand, for some folks, learning never stops.

That's certainly the case at the nation's truck-driving schools, where the doors are always open to new students seeking entree into our industry.

Helping ensure they get a quality education in piloting big rigs is the Professional Truck Driver Institute Inc. (PTDI), a nonprofit organization based in Alexandria, Va.

The latest good news from PTDI is that it has reached an impressive milestone. Sixty-five truck-driver training schools now offer courses certified or recertified by PTDI.

Six schools have received their first certifications:

* Delaware Technical & Community College, Georgetown, Del.

* Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

* Veri Institute of Professional Truck Driving, Exeter, Ontario

* Three locations of Smith & Solomon School of Tractor Trailer Driving: Cherry Hill and Edison, N.J., and Philadelphia, Pa.

Courses at four schools have recently been recertified:

* American Institute of Technology, Phoenix, Ariz.

* M.S. Carriers Professional Driving Academy, Memphis, Tenn.

* Two locations of national Tractor Trailer School: Buffalo and Liverpool, N.Y.

In addition, Western Pacific Truck School has received certification for a course added to its program at locations in Fresno, Modesto, and Stockton, Calif.

To beef up the value of its certification, PTDI revised the entire process two years ago. Revisions were made to skill standards, curriculum guidelines, and the certification procedure itself.

According to PTDI chairman Don Bowman, the revised certification process incorporates the Federal Highway Administration's "Minimum Standards for Training Tractor-Trailer Drivers."

Certification now also includes dispatching an evaluation team to the site, which examines the school's existing standards, procedures, and practices.

"We are very proud of this process," says Bowman. "We will continue to encourage the industry to meet these standards and to be accountable for the drivers it puts on the roads."

Explaining why his school sought certification, Scott Ketelsen, director-continuing educational outreach at Kirkwood Community College, says, "We wanted to be proactive, ahead of the curve. We felt PTDI certification was going to become more important to carriers as time went on."

Wade Murphree, president of the American Institute of Technology, notes that when his school's course was first certified by PTDI two years ago, only 19 other schools offered certified courses.

"PTDI certification has since gained much greater acceptance," he points out, "and the standards changes were beneficial and more aligned toward the educational process with emphasis placed on outcomes."

That's a valid point. The real value of any education lies in what the student gets out of it. And in this case, what an entire industry gets out of it, too.

For more information, contact PTDI's Virginia DeRoze at 703-838-8842. Or visit the organization's web site at www.ptdi.org.