MOBILE, Ala (WALA) -- Ambrose Roberts Jr. is ready to roll on the open road.

“For a second career, it was like an eye opener,” he said.

Roberts has been getting hands on training in the truck.

“They teach you that you are not a truck driver,” he said. “You become a professional driver.”

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The truck driver training program at Bishop State Community College while relatively short is designed to get students on the road as an entry level driver in about two months.

“There's things we teach them to help make them aware of what they're doing and what their surroundings are when they're driving the truck,” said Brad Wallace, head instructor at Bishop State truck driving.

In the last year, there have been several deadly wrecks that have called into question the track record of truckers.

Last May, flames could be seen shooting up from a tanker truck on fire on I-10 near Downtown Mobile. Then in August, a truck driver plowing into another truck on I-10 near Daphne, the other truck stopped on the interstate due to an earlier crash. Finally, a fiery crash just two months ago on I-65 near Saraland. The tractor trailer overturned catching fire. In all three cases the drivers died.

“There's accidents in every industry, some of them not as bad as if you're in an 80,000 pound vehicle,” Wallace said.

Bishop State’s truck driving training program is one of the largest programs of its kind in Alabama. Wallace said many factors can contribute to a crash.

“Training is a big issue of it, some of the schools that they are graduating from aren't making the students properly prepared to go out into the field,” he said.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety about 1 in 10 highway deaths involved a large truck. The training that is happening at Bishop State is trying to keep that from happening.

“You got to stay looking in your mirrors at least every eight seconds checking all around you because you have cars they come sit right on the side of you,” Roberts said.

In the past few decades the number of cars on the road has only increased which forces truckers to pay close attention to every little detail.

“Look at the view that you have when you're driving down the road in this truck,” Roberts said. “Driving a vehicle this capacity you have to look miles and miles ahead.”

Truck driver fatigue can also play a role in a crash which is why the Department of Transportation has rules about how long a truck driver can be on the road.

“A driver can only drive 11 hours a day,” Wallace said. “They must have a 30 minute break in that day, must have 10 hours rest, consecutive rest before he can drive again.”

Another issue is a shortage of drivers. The school is teaching as many as they can, but according to the American Trucking Association that may not be enough. They said by the end of 2017 there was a shortage of 50,000 truck drivers nationwide and that number is only expected to go up.

“There are people changing careers,” Wallace said. “We have nurses come through the program, we've had lawyers come through the program. All walks of life decide this is what they want to do.”

Back in the cab with Roberts, training is almost complete now the next part finding a job.

“The training we have received here we are better prepared for obstacles that we can prevent not putting human life into harm’s way if we can,” he said.

While there is all this training, crashes do still happen as we have seen over the last year.

According to the Insurance Institute while there are rules for how long a driver can go for, surveys indicate that many drivers violate the regulations and work longer than allowed.

All content © 2019, WALA; Mobile, AL. (A Meredith Corporation Station). All Rights Reserved.  

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