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Trailer Services and Grays Harbor College CDL programs form partnership

Roger Holcomb, Operations Manager for Trailer Service Company Inc. congratulates new employee, Francisco Espinosa, a recent Grays Harbor College CDL program graduate.
Roger Holcomb, Operations Manager for Trailer Service Company Inc. congratulates new employee, Francisco Espinosa, a recent Grays Harbor College CDL program graduate.

ABERDEEN— Trailer Service Company Inc. wants to expand its business. With growth comes the need for more drivers. Grays Harbor College’s CDL (Commercial Driver License) program and the company are piloting a new partnership to bridge the gap between the need for local drivers and the college’s newly trained truck drivers.

Normally newly licensed CDL drivers need to drive long haul/over the road for one to two years before they can apply for a local driving job. This partnership will change that.

Trailer Service Company offers local, family wage jobs with benefits and retirement plans. Jobs that allow drivers to work closer to home. The company entered into this partnership with GHC to hire CDL students directly after graduation. Trailer Services actually hired their first GHC CDL graduates 13 years ago. One of those hired has since retired and another has been training newer drivers.

GHC program

Grays Harbor College has had a very successful truck-driving program for many years, certified by the Department of Licensing as an approved training program, as well as the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.

The program consists of 375 hours, 215 hours more than the state required minimum of 160 hours.

The training site is located at the Satsop Business Park and the program is taught by a full-time instructor, LaDonna Scott, a graduate from the training program, and a part-time instructional assistant, Cindy Ormiston.

Partnership pursued

As graduates from the CDL program were repeatedly discouraged when applying for local driving jobs, Nancy Estergard, CDL program advisor at the college, got back in contact with Trailer Services and several other local companies asking how the college could help the companies find qualified drivers to fill the local need. She recently met with Trailer Service Company Administrative Assistant Sandy Tometich and Operations Director Galen McGinnis, putting the pieces together for this pilot partnership. Trailer Service also worked with its insurance company to enable it to hire students.

When asked why Trailer Services was pursuing this pilot partnership, Tometich said, “We have reviewed the curriculum for GHC’s CDL program and find it extremely thorough. We want to work with a local program. They have the talent, we have the jobs and the ambition and resources to grow. Trailer Service has a mandate of growth. By utilizing GHC that growth can be realized.”

“We want to hire drivers who want to retire with us,” she added. “We are a very family-oriented company owned by a local family that believes in a family wage, offers full benefits, 401K, holiday pay, vacation, and the driver can be home almost every night. It’s very hard to be a good parent if you’re on the road. Trailer Services is willing to work around family obligations when we need to,” she said.

How partnership works

McGinnis talked about how the partnership works. Trailer Services personnel go to the training site and observe the CDL class. Towards the end of their training, some graduates, who show potential and are truly looking for local jobs, will be encouraged to apply with Trailer Services.

Once the application is received, evaluated, and the student is hired, they will ride and drive with a trainer to help hone their skills with additional training. When a new driver has passed all the competency skills required by Trailer Service, they will be given their own route and truck.

“This is truly a unique opportunity for these students as well as this company,” said McGinnis. While this is new ground to all of us, I am confident that the partnership is just the beginning of working with the college to keep local talent on the Harbor. When it comes down to it, this is a much safer option for us than to hire someone who has received their CDL training elsewhere. We know this training program and in 25 minutes we can be on the training site and see them actually driving. Our local community has a long history of internal self-reliance. This partnership gives evidence of that strength,” she said.

New hires happy

Zach Lavender is a recent hire at Trailer Service Company. When asked how he likes working there he said, “Everybody from the office staff to the drivers and mechanics are very friendly and knowledgeable. They truly care about their employees. I am very happy with the work and couldn’t see myself being anywhere else. I like the fact that I get to learn more than one type of driving. They cover it all - flatbeds, dry vans, skirt vans, and containers. It’s a great place to get experience in a lot of different areas,” he said.

Trailer Service’s Roger Holcomb added, “There is a big need for drivers. When we hire someone who has graduated from the Grays Harbor College program, we know they have received excellent training and have spent a large number of hours behind the wheel. This makes our job to train them to work for us much easier.”

Francisco Espinoza, a recent graduate from the GHC program, was the first hire from this pilot partnership. He began his employment at Trailer Service in January.

“My experience training at GHC was phenomenal. I am thankful for the instructors who challenged me, and for the amount of one-on-one instruction all of the students get. The instructors listen to us; share their knowledge, points of view and experience with us, in order to improve our driving habits. I am now more confident with the safety guidelines to be on the road in any weather conditions. I am honored for the opportunity to drive for a local company, as I feel the need to help our community. I am thankful for GHC’s recommendation to a successful and flourishing company that cares for their drivers to be able to go home to their family every night.”

Another recent hire from the CDL program is Dayton Ackley, who commented, “Trailer Service offers a great opportunity for new drivers. It’s great they are working with Grays Harbor College to provide local jobs where it’s hard to get your foot in the door. You’re working with all aspects of hauling: from flatbed, containers, or dry van, the experience I’ve gained has been awesome. The staff has been great and they treat you like family,” he said.

LaDonna Scott, the college’s CDL instructor, is “looking forward to the opportunity to work with Trailer Service to ensure they get good, safe drivers and it gives our CDL students a chance to be able to work locally if they choose.”

Financial aid

The college is also hoping to secure additional funding for more students to be able to enter the program. Previously, students were able to utilize Federal Financial Aid, Trade Act benefits, Workforce Investment Act funds, the Student Success Opportunity Grant from on campus, and retraining funds from multiple sources. Currently the Federal financial aid funds are not able to be used for the CDL program. The other funds still qualify.

Now, as Grays Harbor College and Trailer Service move forward, they hope to see this pilot partnership become part of the “nature of doing business,” and both hope to be able to expand the partnership with other local companies.

For more information on this partnership and the CDL classes, contact Nancy Estergard at 538-4012, or Marjie Stratton at 538-4011.