Inflation is hampering the search for training equipment at community colleges

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When Iowa-based Brad Carman trained in 1997 for his CDL at Southeast Community College in Lincoln, Nebraska, he was in CDL Instructor Lyle Gruntorad’s first class. A few years ago he was racing with a load of Bridgestone tires and stopped at the Bosselman truck stop in Grand Island, Nebraska. He saw a group of Southeast trucks there and “came in to see who the instructor was,” Carman said. “Indeed”, it was Gruntorad, who was with students, and it turned out that he was nearing retirement. Carman “told him I was still driving and it had been a good career for me.”

Lyle Gruntorad (left) and Brad Carman with one of the Southeast training devices in 1997

As memorable as the experience was, Carman added, it also reminded him of his own training days. He remembers thinking then, “what a way to retire or get out, teaching the next generation”.

On Friday, Carman turns 56 and “feels a little old” himself these days, he joked with me this week. Most importantly, he is putting that old thinking and Gruntorad legacy into practice in his life and career, currently working with the staff and administrators of Iowa Western Community College to establish a CDL program there.

Brad Carman holding his dogBrad Carman“When I saw the Iowa Western starting a program, I wanted to be a part of it” instantly, Carman said. Ideally, “I would like it to be as successful as the school I attended. I didn’t know anything about driving a truck when I started. Dad had driven for Greyhound for 28 years. But otherwise, I didn’t know.”

Community college training programs have long been a haven for new drivers with sometimes limited resources to invest in expensive training. The course at Southeast in 1997 was worth 10 weeks of study. “I was out of luck and completely broke,” Carman said, but his father, who had investigated the course himself after retiring from Greyhound, “told me about school and that it only cost $400 to go.”

Carman didn’t believe it, but he still has the bill to prove it.

invoice for CDL training from 1997$429.50, to be exact.He remembers many of those early forays into professional driving, including a head instructor from Southeast sharing the struggles he had experienced getting the program up and running. Carman is currently going through a few similar challenges, namely securing enough equipment to actually launch the program.

Ideally, admins are looking for donated gear – one reason Carman reached out to me this week. Administrators had no doubt budgeted for the purchase of equipment, but “with recent inflation and the time that may have passed” since this budgeting began, Carman said, “I think that the numbers are a little out of range with what was originally planned” in terms of spending. It’s a reality that certainly won’t be lost on this audience, given what the last two years have done to pricing.

a parked white semi-truck and a trailerThe good news for the program is that Panama Transfer donated this truck and trailer to the effort. The bad? It needs about $15,000 of steerer and tire work to bring it into line with on-road training — it might serve well on the support lineup, Carman said, but the simulators the school is in. has invested will not be enough for a quality program, of course, he knows that.

Carman kept pointing out that there may well be another “company or someone else out there…willing to help us, with a loan or a donation”, or a reasonable price on a DOT compliant platform. “We just need to let it be known that we’re looking for something. It doesn’t have to be complicated at all. Just something worn but able to pass a DOT inspection would work to start with. It’ll be empty, mostly.”

If you’re reading and have ideas for Brad Carman, email him through this link.

And join me in wishing him an early happy birthday. I hope Friday is a good day, Brad.

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