EAC uses United Way grant funds to purchase semi-truck for CDL program

Lori Dugan Photo/EAC: Pictured here on the day the new truck was delivered, from left, are Jim Goodman, CDL adjunct instructor; Charmaine Chidester, EAC director of grants; Michele Driver, EAC assistant director of grants; Adam O’Doherty, CEO, United Way of Graham and Greenlee County; EAC President Todd Haynie; Dr. Susan Wood, EAC vice-president of student and academic affairs; Heston Welker, EAC vice-president of administration; Tom Thompson, EAC’s chief information officer; and Kip Nielson, EAC associate professor.

By Sophia Saldaña/EAC

Thatcher — Eastern Arizona College’s Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Program received a boost from the local United Way last week with a grant to purchase a Freightliner Cascadia with a sleeper cab that can be refitted for additional seating space. This will allow students to observe instruction while others are getting their driving hours and behind-the-wheel skill development. “This reduces the learning curve and increases the capacity for larger cohorts,” said Kip Nielson, EAC CDL instructor. “Without this additional semi-tractor, the local demand for training could not be met.”

EAC’s CDL Program was developed in response to multiple requests from local businesses and industries. “Licensed CDL drivers are in high demand but, there was no local training or testing center to accommodate those needs.”

The CDL Program fulfills EAC’s mission to offer associate degree and certificate programs that meet the workforce needs of the local and global communities and support the educational, cultural, and economic needs of the community.

Beginning Feb. 7, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will require all entry-level commercial motor vehicle operators who are applying for a CDL to satisfactorily complete minimum training requirements. Several local businesses and municipalities require their operators to be CDL certified either before or as a condition of employment.

“Eastern has been approved as a ‘training provider’ and can now offer certification testing directly to our students…that really adds value to our program and gives our students more options to certify without having to go out of town.”

The CDL Program will greatly benefit from the donated truck because of its automatic transmission and popularity among various industries. A bench seat was installed in the truck so that multiple students could simultaneously experience class demonstrations. “It has a 10-speed manual transmission so students can get a CDL without an automatic transmission restriction on their license.” The Freightliner Cascadia will ensure that students will be able to drive a multitude of automatic transmission or standard trucks.

“The United Way’s mission to increase local employment opportunities coupled with anticipated growth in the CDL Program due to the new regulations, made it apparent that an additional, newer tractor would serve the mission statements of both the United Way and EAC,” said Neilson. “And with the help and support of our grant writers and Adam O’Doherty, the CEO of United Way of Graham and Greenlee County, the dream is now a reality.”

Classes for Spring 2022 are forming now. Students interested in the CDL program at EAC are encouraged to reach out to Nielson by phone at (928) 428-8430 or by email at kip.nielson@eac.edu.