By Ernie W. Webb III
Sept. 10 was a big day for Metropolitan Community College-Business & Technology students training to drive big rigs. For the first time, the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) conducted Commercial Driver’s License Class A or CDL-A testing at an off-site facility — MCC-BT’s campus.
“This is great for the students. I’m happy that they get a chance to do this here,” said CDL-A instructor Bill Bisbee. “Having this on our campus really eases the anxiety for them.”
The CDL-A test, conducted in Swift Transportation tractor-trailers, consisted of three phases:
- Pre-trip testing: A safety inspection of the entire semitrailer
- Basic testing: A skills test that includes backing up straight, offset backing, an alley dock (backing the truck into a spot to the left at a 90-degree angle) and parallel parking
- Road test: Driving on streets and highways for about 40 minutes
MCC-BT students said taking the test on familiar ground and with their instructors watching improved their comfort level.
“You’re familiar with the facility, and that is a big help,” said Leon Wallace, a student from Kansas City who plans to own a trucking company in the future. “Another big thing is the instructors here. They do a great job, and you have a relationship with them. It’s very hands-on, and that’s important.”
In addition to MCC-BT students taking the exam, students who recently started the CDL-A program watched the testing in preparation for taking it themselves.
“This is a great opportunity to see what we’re going to be doing in a few weeks,” said Delairo Koonce, a student from Raytown. “We have great instructors here, and they do a good job of preparing us, including when we have to take this test.”
The testing was part of an MSHP pilot program that aims to reduce a backlog at state patrol’s test facilities. Testing at MCC-BT will occur once per week during the six-month pilot phase.
“We’re excited that we can provide this opportunity for our students,” said Jeff Schwartz, manager of the Center for Supply Chain Education at MCC-BT. “It speaks volumes about our partnership with the Missouri State Highway Patrol.”
MCC-BT’s Truck Driving CDL-A program is a six-week course that prepares students for driving positions within the trucking industry. For more information about the program, visit mcckc.edu/cdla.