Doing its part

WINNIPEG, Man. – First Class Training Centre was doing its part trying to alleviate some of the projected burden many see coming to the trucking industry with a lack of newcomers to take the wheel from a soon to be retiring driver generation.

The Winnipeg and Brandon, Man.-based Class 1 and 3 driver training school visited students from seven communities, ranging from Grades 8 to 12, in an attempt to educate the youngsters on the trucking industry and what it would be like to drive professionally.

Jim Campbell, co-owner of First Class Training Centre, said they received a call from Frontier School Division asking if they would be interested in speaking to students about the industry and the type of training they provide.

“I thought that would be a great idea,” Campbell said, “to more or less plant the seed for future drivers.”

The centre has its own mobile trailer that acts as a classroom and can be brought to any location, be it a school or business looking to reap the benefits of added training for drivers.

The school also brought its large load truck simulator so students could have their chance to see what driving a truck would be all about.

“We put 375 kids through the simulator,” Campbell said. “They all thought it was very cool.”

Campbell said he believes that visiting high school students and discussing the trucking industry would help provide some insight into the profession both for the students and their parents, some of which could be looking for a career change.

“Being that young, they really didn’t understand a lot about the industry,” Campbell said of the students, “but once I did my presentation and told them some stories and explained how important the industry is to the economy, they learned quite a bit…they didn’t understand how important it really was.”

Campbell was a truck driver for 35 years before he and a partner started First Class Training Centre on Jan. 12, 2012.

Growing up in Northern Manitoba, Campbell drove in the area for a decade before being a long-haul driver for another 13, accumulating around 2.5 million accident-free miles.

Campbell then did some teaching and heavy hauling of pipelines before getting the itch to return to the classroom.

“I thought I could do a little bit better when it came to raising the standards, as far as schooling goes,” he said. “So we decided to open up our own school.”

Based on the motto, ‘honesty and high standards,’ Campbell said First Class Training Centre has seen a steady amount of perspective drivers coming through its doors of late, but admitted he’d like to see more, particularly with a driver shortage projected for the near future.

“We get people from 18 years old to 55 or 60,” Campbell said. “Mechanics, aviation technicians, pilots, accountants…we even had a professional golfer not long ago. We get all kinds.”

Campbell said he believes there’s one key factor that draws people to a life on the road – freedom.

“You’re not stuck in an office environment where people are breathing down your neck with deadlines,” he said. “It’s just to get out there, have a change of pace, travel the country and get paid for it. If you’re up to a good challenge and you’re able to adapt on a day-to-day basis, it’s a great industry to be in.”

Campbell also feels that it’s a good idea for companies to keep their drivers trained and up-to-date on a yearly basis, as it shows that they are doing their due diligence to keep their drivers current.

“Just for the simple reason that you’re never too old to learn,” he said. “You never need to be saying, ‘I don’t need to worry about that, I’ve been driving for 20 to 30 years.’ It doesn’t matter; you always have to be on your game, and this is a great way to do it.”

Campbell said his school customizes its training and scenarios to what each individual company wants, and with its mobile trailer classroom, is able to bring that service directly to the customer.

Though the simulator is a big part of the training process, Campbell said it is not intended to teach people how to drive, but rather to bring awareness of all the kinds of situations a driver can face on the road, and how they would deal with each scenario.

Campbell said some Manitoba school boards have indicated that they would like First Class Training Centre to visit with students on a yearly basis.

Derek Clouthier

A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.

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