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TEXARKANA, Texas — The Texarkana College board of trustees approved a contract agreement to renew its Professional Driving Academy training program in a regular meeting Monday morning.

Officials say demand for truck drivers is high at this time.

The board approved the continuation of the program by signing an instructional contract with Ancora, a provider for commercial driver's license Class-A training.

"Truck driving is currently identified as one of the most in-demand careers, and in the past year, it has been identified as one of the essential occupations," said Mendy Sharp, executive director of the Community and Business Education division. "There is an estimated deficient of more than 60,000 drivers across all industries currently. And according to Ancora, Texas alone has 9,000 open, full-time positions for entry-level drivers."

Sharp said the estimated average annual salary is $62,000 for starting drivers, with annual earnings of up to $75,000 or more in some cases.

"Our driving academy trains students in four weeks of study and instruction," she said. "The course is a total of 160 clock hours, and that's split between classroom time at TC, time out at our driving yard at the TexAmericas Center and on the road."

TC began the professional driving academy in 2014 to provide CDL training. Sharp said more than 270 students from across the region have completed the program since 2014 with the skills and knowledge needed to operate and maintain tractor-trailers and successfully pass their CDL exam.

The following skills are taught and practiced during the course:

n Professional drivers' safety procedures including alcohol and drug effects; laws and penalties.

n Performing pre-trip and post trip vehicle inspections.

n Basic and advanced road training in all situations, including terrain, weather conditions, pedestrians, and traffic situations.

n Straight backing, off set backing and 90 degree backing maneuver (Arkansas) and parallel parking (Texas).

n Map reading, logbooks, cargo documentation, dispatch procedures, emergency responsibilities and regulations of transportation agencies.

n Employment expectations of over-the-road drivers including travel to all 48 states and Canada.

"Class sizes are small, typically 6 to 8 students, so that each one gets one-on-one instruction and practice," Sharp said. "We have not had an increase to the cost of our program since our beginning in 2014, and there are funding sources and scholarships available to qualified students to help off-set their out-of-pocket course cost of $4,191."

Other business

In other news from the meeting, the board approved a Request For Proposal for the TC Media Center heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.

This is a project included in the capital budget approved for the Maintenance Tax Note. Contracts are not to exceed $728,000.

Director of Facilities Rick Boyette said it is a three-to-four month project.

The March regular meeting was moved from March 22 to March 29 due to complications involving Spring Break.

(For more information about the driving program, to download a brochure, or to speak to an enrollment specialist, students can call 903-823-3434, or visit texarkanacollege.edu/professional-driving-academy/ online.)

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