Truck driving course gets you on the road to a career

Imagine training, passing a licensing test and having a new job in about a month. That’s entirely possible, says Ed Tanksley, general manager of Katlaw Truck Driving Schools.

“There is zero unemployed in the truck industry,” Tanksley said. “This is something you can learn pretty quickly then go out and make a good income doing.”

The sluggish economy has made driving a tractor trailer an attractive job occupation — so much so that the typical profile of the 30- to 40-year-old white male driver is disappearing, Tanksley said.

“Everybody is doing this now,” he said. “In the past few months, I’ve had three guys here who were around 70, and we put them right to work. I’ve now got several females in class. There are a lot of career changers, people coming out of the construction industry and retirees who aren’t happy being retired. Our demographic is just about everybody, from every kind of background imaginable.”

Since 1996, the Austell-based school has been preparing drivers to hit the road. The intense program includes 160 hours of what students need to know to pass the state’s licensing exam and earn a commercial driver’s license. Classes start at the beginning of each week and include sessions on handling 10-speed transmissions and double clutches, six back-up maneuvers and the details of a 96-point inspection. All of Katlaw’s training is conducted in full-sized sleeper cabs, so students get a feel for the physical space in which they’ll be working.

After the classes and driver’s test, Tanksley works to place students with more than two dozen local firms that hire entry-level drivers. It’s not unusual for students to have six job offers before they’ve finished training, with salaries starting around $40,000, with full benefits.

“That’s pretty standard right now because there’s a driver shortage,” Tanksley said. “Companies are hiring, and most of them have extensive finishing programs where you go out with a trainer for three to eight weeks.”

Tuition is about $3,000, which could be a high price for someone who’s been unemployed for a while, Tanksley said. But there are ways to defray the cost.

“If you take out a loan, most of the companies who hire will pay it back,” he said. “In addition, someone on unemployment may qualify for tuition funding. And effective Oct. 1, the G.I. Bill will also pay for this training.”

The school is in the Threadmill complex (5000 Austell-Powder Springs Road) in Austell. For information, call 678-945-1900 or go to

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