California High School Is Teaching Teens to Drive 18-Wheelers

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At first glance, it may sound odd to hear that high schoolers are learning to drive big rigs, but that’s exactly what’s happening at California’s Patterson High School. As NPR reports, Patterson High recently began offering a students the opportunity to attend a truck driving school as part of its Career Technical Education Program.


To be clear, it’s an elective course, so students who don’t want to go into commercial trucking aren’t expected to participate. But seniors who are interested have the opportunity to learn about the industry itself, proper safety practices, and how to obtain their commercial driver’s license all before they graduate high school.

According to the school’s website, after completing the year-long class, students will need to apply to a partner trucking company for real-world training before they can earn their CDL. It’s not all classroom instruction for the high schoolers, though. They also spend time in a lab setting, including about 20 hours on a simulator where they learn basics such as how to shift, reverse, and drive defensively.

“A lot of [students] who enroll in the course have never considered trucking as a career. Trucking doesn’t have a great reputation and it comes with a lot of misconceptions about what exactly a truck driver is,” said instructor Dave Dein in an interview with NPR. “If we don’t start promoting trucking to our youth, they only can make decisions on the information that they have.”

Speaking to NPR, senior Eduardo Dominguez-Sotelo — one of those aforementioned students who previously had no interest in trucking — said, “It was not an elective I would’ve chosen because I didn’t think that truck driving was for me. In the end, it actually ended up being a good fit for me.”

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That doesn’t mean he plans to make trucking his entire career. Instead, Dominguez-Sotelo said he thinks it will be a good way to earn money part-time while studying computer engineering. Even if he only drives over the summer, he can expect to make quite a bit more than he would in food service or retail. Potentially as much as $12,000 according to the school’s website.

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