A student in a white shirt and orange shorts stands away from the camera looking at a white truck with its hood open. Another student wearing jeans and a green t-shirt looks at the truck's internals.

(ROSENBERG, Texas) – After weeks of training, students could recently be seen inspecting the truck that will carry them over the finish line of the Professional Driving Academy program at Texas State Technical College.

Each student must pass a series of upcoming tests designed to showcase their skills and aptitude in order to earn their Class A commercial driver’s licenses, or CDLs.

Despite the pressure, none felt too worried.

“I’m feeling confident for the test,” said Jacob Ochoa, a student of both the CDL program and the Electrical Lineworker and Management Technology program at TSTC.

His words were echoed by his peers.

“This program has been exciting,” Sebastian Torres, a student in the same programs as Ochoa, said. “It has been fun learning something new. Our instructor is actually teaching us, helping us overcome our mistakes.”

Their instructor, Anais Santiago, has taught the program and others like it for years. As she instructs her students, her excitement and energy toward them is palpable.

The tests that the students must take to graduate include a pre-inspection of the vehicle, followed by performing basic maneuvers such as parking and driving in tight areas. The final test is a road test, where the students showcase their ability to follow the rules of the road and navigate through traffic.

“During the program they are required to log 160 hours of training. It takes a lot of patience, though most of it is probably patience in dealing with me,” joked Santiago.

After students earn their CDLs, they are prepared for jobs in a variety of fields. Locally, Santiago finds that the biggest employers include oil and fuel, agriculture and retail.

While students enter the program for a number of reasons, a large percentage come directly from the lineworker program. Since the trucks that lineworkers drive in the field require a CDL to operate, many, if not most, TSTC lineworker students end up in both programs.

Students also come from the workforce, where their employers are looking to have them gain further certification. Santiago has taught people coming from places like the city of Rosenberg, Coca-Cola and local school districts.

TSTC offers the Professional Driving Academy at its Abilene, Brownwood, Fort Bend County, Harlingen, Marshall and Sweetwater campuses.

Registration for TSTC’s fall semester is underway. For more information, visit tstc.edu.

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