Assemblymember Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) speaks at a press conference Friday morning at the Advanced Training Institute campus in Fresno. Photo by Frank Lopez
Written by Frank Lopez
Assemblymember Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) held a press conference Friday morning at the Advanced Training Institute campus in Fresno to call on the California Department of Motor Vehicles to provide more commercial driver license tests at its locations statewide.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a backlog on trucking students waiting to take their tests at DMVs across California.
Because the DMV is not offering enough appointments to bring relief to the backlog, the school can only get 18 testing appointments for its 355 students each week.
At that rate, it would take about five months to get all the students driving-test appointments.
“Truck driving students who have passed their tests, are ready to go to work, have job offers and dreams they have been working toward for so long — it all comes down to the California DMV,” said Patterson. “The DMV simply is not offering an adequate number of test appointments. It is creating a huge backlog and directly influencing the ability of these students to get licenses and get to work.”
According to a press release from Patterson’s office, 80% of trucking students statewide are currently on unemployment.
Everett Yockey, chief financial officer and director of operations at Advanced Career Institute, said some students have gotten their licenses by first getting hired by carriers such as Swift and Knight to test in the DL 170 program, which allows students to get their licenses sooner by becoming employees.
“It’s important that these people have a new career because they have families to support. This is not just a Valley issue, but a statewide problem that has been here for the last few years,” Yockey said.
Yockey said some students have even gone to states including Utah and Arizona to get their licenses through third-party testing, having to pay out of their own pockets.
“I am confident in my skills and ability to pass my test at the DMV, but because of the closures, I am one of the many students that has to go out of state and pay my own money to take a test — spending over $1,000 to take a test that I could take down the street,” said Amanda Helzer, a student at Advanced Training Institute’s six-week program.
Jeremy Allen, another student at Advanced Training Institute, moved back to his native Fresno after living in Texas for a time, seeking a fresh start in a new industry.
He saw a rising demand for truck drivers and wanted to get into the industry, but the backlog is delaying him from getting a job.
Allen said that because of the backlog, there are a large number of students just waiting to take their turns for certain training exercises, further delaying the process.
“The effect is that the more people that are here, the longer we have to be here because we don’t get drive time. It’s all about getting behind the wheel. When you only have so many trucks or instructors, and many students, drivers just don’t get the time behind the wheel,” Allen said.