HCTC expands CDL training with simulator

Hazard Community and Technical College CDL Training Instructor Jeff Stidham explains how to use the college’s new driving simulator.

Students beginning the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) classes of the fall semester at Hazard Community and Technical College were welcomed with an addition to their simulation room — a new Advanced Training Systems CDL simulator. 

While the program has trained three years of CDL classes, and a class in July got to use the simulator on a limited basis, this is the first class to fully utilize it, said HCTC Public Relations Director Evelyn Wood. 

According to HCTC officials, the simulator will provide students with access to a full range of standard and automatic shift, 10-speed transmissions. During the course and use of the simulator, students will see real-life scenarios and receive hands-on experience with beginning shifting, double clutching and backing, while saving money and materials for the college.

“This simulator is a tremendous asset to the CDL program,” said Program Coordinator Jeff Stidham, explaining that the simulator means less wear and tear on actual tractor trailer rigs and allows the students to be proficient at double clutching and shifting before getting in the trucks.

Academic Dean and Chief Campus Administrator Tony Back agreed that the simulator is beneficial. “It is really saving us a $125,000 truck and making it last a lot longer,” said Back.

In addition to being able to teach the students how to operate the trucks in a hands-on-way, Stidham is able to control outside factors that appear on the screen, such as stop signs and traffic lights, weather conditions, traffic/other vehicles and pedestrian and animal crossings. This will allow Stidham to ensure that students are aware of their surroundings and are in control. 

“The simulator makes students aware of road hazards and conditions that are not present currently, so their learning is at a higher level,” said Stidham. 

The simulator is expected to further increase the placement rates for students successfully completing the program. According to Stidham, the current pass rate for the class is 100 percent and the placement rate for jobs is 90 percent.

“Everybody that comes in my class leaves with a class a CDL non-restricted license. I’ve had no one fail yet,” said Stidham. “The average age of a truck driver on the road is 65. A majority of them are having to come out of retirement. A starting driver straight out of school will make at least $60,000 per year,” Stidham said. 

He said that, after experience, the pay can raise to $100-140,000 per year.

HCTC President/CEO Jennifer Lindon said the college hopes to add even more simulators to the simulation room, expanding the program further. 

“The next thing that we’ll be adding is a school bus simulator, because we’re hearing from the schools that there are a demand for bus drivers and of course we want our children to be safe. What better way to learn than put them on a simulator first to get them ready?,” said Lindon.

For more information about the CDL program, call, (606) 487-3632, or visit the college’s website.  

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