ALEXANDRIA, La. (WNTZ) — The City of Alexandria has launched an innovative new program to train city employees to earn a Class A, B or D Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).
“The city always has a need for drivers,” said Oscar Donta Howard Jr., assistant director of Public Works. “The advantage to the city in providing this training program is that we get to train our drivers in-house and we can work the classes around the employee’s work schedule. The advantage to the drivers is they don’t have to pay to go to a school and it provides advancement opportunities for our employees.”
To date, six employees have earned CDL licenses. Franklin Hadwin, a worker in the city tire repair shop, was the first to earn a Class A CDL, the highest level. “It helps the city and it helps me,” Hadwin said. “I can drive anything on the lot. I actually work on vehicles, and it lets me see hands-on what I’m looking for. It bettered me as an employee and as a person.”
Originally, Hadwin planned to just get a Class B license, which would allow him to drive a tow truck when needed. But once he got into the program he chose to pursue the higher Class A license. “The city let me go a little further than I needed,” he said. “I like a challenge. I wanted to see if I could do it, and I did it. By the grace of God, I did it.”
Streets Department Supervisor Wayne Senviel serves as the instructor for the program, which includes 40 hours of driver education that covers theory as well as behind-the-wheel training. “It’s all about safety and knowing the vehicle,” Senviel said. Underscoring that point, he said he focuses heavily on pre-trip inspection training – the test area Howard notes most applicants fail – before doing any behind-the-wheel training. “After the pre-inspection we do on-the-road training and range training.”
Senviel praised Hadwin for his hard work, noting when he took his final CDL test he received a perfect score on the pre-trip inspection, something the tester said he had only seen once before. “He practiced and practiced and studied. He bugged the heck out of me,” Senviel recalled. “I’m very proud of him. He’s a blessing.”
Senviel added that now that he has earned his Class A CDL, Hadwin helps other students with their studies. He is also available to assist when drivers are needed in an emergency situation. “By him having a Class A CDL license, when storms come we can use him to drive a flatbed,” Senviel said.
“It’s all hands on deck in an emergency,” Hadwin said. “That’s what I like about working at the city, because it’s a family. They have your back. I’m glad I can help as needed.”
Howard explained the inspiration for the driver training program came when the federal government mandated drivers attend an approved training school in order to obtain a CDL license in an effort to increase public safety. Specifically, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations for entry-level driver training for CDL licenses were changed as part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act and took effect February 7. Entry-level drivers are now required to complete a training program from a provider listed on the FMCSA’s Training Provider Registry.
CDL licenses are required to operate any piece of equipment with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) greater than 26,000 pounds. In the city’s case, that includes a variety of vehicles including garbage trucks, flatbeds, grabber trucks and ATRANS buses. To participate in the city’s training program, employees must first obtain a permit from the Department of Motor Vehicles Howard said. “That shows us they are serious about wanting to learn,” Howard said. “And they have to have the permit to be able to do the behind-the-wheel training on the road.”