With his CDL, Robert Smith hopes to be an owner-operator in trucking
(ROSENBERG, Texas) – Robert Smith owned a barber shop and beauty salon for 20 years. He stepped away from the business after a divorce and needed a new career.
“The next best thing to do to keep my lifestyle going that I’m accustomed to is trucking,” he said. “In a nutshell, it’s the money and the travel — making money while traveling.”
Registering with Workforce Solutions led Smith to the commercial driver’s license (CDL) training program at Texas State Technical College’s campus in Fort Bend County.
But the road to earning his CDL was potholed with challenges.
“At one point, I struggled,” Smith said. “I was second-guessing myself on many occasions.”
But after talking with TSTC’s Fort Bend County campus CDL instructor Paul Hildebrandt and others at TSTC, Smith gained the confidence he needed to continue — and pass.
“They told me to stop second-guessing myself — I got this,” Smith said. “They were a big support and helpful in encouraging me to keep going. Paul always told me, ‘You’ll get through it. Just stick with it.’ So I never gave up on the basis of the encouragement and support I got from TSTC as a whole.”
The moment that Smith passed and earned his CDL, Hildebrandt gave him a big hug.
“I’m ecstatic for him,” Hildebrandt said. “It’s the most amazing moment when somebody gets something they’ve worked so hard for.”
Hildebrandt added that he was impressed by Smith’s work ethic.
“The word ‘quit’ is not in his vocabulary,” Hildebrandt said. “He told me, ‘I have to do this.’ You just have to sit there and give it your all. This gentleman just changed his life.”
A big driver of Smith’s perseverance was his fiancee.
“I’m still overjoyed,” Smith said of earning his CDL. “My fiancee is overwhelmed with joy. We’re excited and ready to take it to the next level and take this journey together.”
Now that he has his CDL, Smith hopes to get over-the-road experience with a trucking company.
“Within the next five years, I look to be an owner-operator,” he said, adding that he is already working on his business name and other details. “That’s my ultimate goal.”
Smith advises prospective CDL earners — and anyone faced with a career change later in life — to set realistic goals and not give up.
“If it gets tough, just try to find that notch in the belt and pull it tighter and keep pushing,” he said. “You have to prepare for every different situation and every different challenge. I would always encourage the next person to set that bar and reach for it. They will definitely be satisfied with the outcome.”
TSTC offers training for Class A commercial driver’s licenses at its Fort Bend County, Harlingen and Marshall campuses.
Learn more at tstc.edu.