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  • September 23, 2018

Professional driving school in Jasper hopes to produce drivers to ease shortage - KJAS.COM: Local News

Professional driving school in Jasper hopes to produce drivers to ease shortage

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Posted: Wednesday, September 12, 2018 5:48 pm | Updated: 1:00 pm, Thu Sep 13, 2018.

A professional driving school through Lamar State College Port Arthur is scheduled to hold their first classes in Jasper in October, and if all goes as planned, organizers hope to turn out the first graduates to enter the commercial driving field in early 2019.

The school, which will be held in classrooms at the old Rowe School, is possible through a cooperative agreement between the university, along with the Jasper Independent School District, the Jasper Economic Development Corporation, and even several private companies. Those companies, organizers say, are desperate for drivers in a profession that is booming, and yet the number of qualified drivers is dwindling.

Dr. Ben Stafford, the Dean of Workforce & Continuing Education at Lamar State College Port Arthur was in Jasper on Wednesday and he explained how the school will operate.

Stafford said the idea for the school here came after the owners of KLB Trucking in Port Arthur decided that they wanted to open a terminal in Jasper, but they quickly discovered that there were only a handful of qualified commercial drivers available for hire in this area.

According to Stafford, KLB officials approached him with the idea of schooling drivers here, and after several months of planning the rest fell into place when JISD and JEDCO got on board.

Dr. Stafford noted that the school will not only train the traditional truck drivers who operate 18-wheelers, but it will also train bus drivers, as well as training for those who want to operate other types of large commercial trucks.

The out of pocket cost for the 3-month long school is $4,000.00, which could be considered quite steep for the average income in this area. However, that’s where JEDCO has stepped in to help.

According to JEDCO Executive Director Eddie Hopkins, the entity has put up $25,000.00 for educational grants which will assist students to attend the driving school. Hopkins says that if your home address is within the 75951 zip code, you may qualify for one of the grants.

Meanwhile, Dr. Stafford said that the lead instructor in the driving school at the Lamar Port Arthur Campus will be teaching at least the first class here in Jasper, but that will not be permanent as school officials have been and will continue to search for a qualified driving instructor from the Jasper area to teach the classes.

As for the success rate of the graduating students, Stafford touted that Lamar has a very high rate of graduates passing their state tests to become certified commercial drivers and subsequent placement in jobs.

According to Stafford, several years ago the state qualifications rose dramatically and right now there is an 80% failure rate for those who try to qualify. However, Stafford said that the classes taught at Lamar State College Port Arthur enjoys an approximately 75% passing rate for their students passing the state tests.

Stafford also noted that several years ago the Texas Department of Public Safety reduced their locations where a person could test for their commercial license to only 13 “Mega-Centers” across the state, with the nearest one to Jasper being in Livingston. Stafford said the plan is for the school here in Jasper to be certified to test the graduates for them to receive their commercial license.

If you would like more information on attending the school, or if you are a qualified instructor interested in teaching the class, contact Amanda Metts at 409-984-6230.