Ready jobs await those with tech skills and a love of the road
SMITHFIELD - A 50-year relationship can grow stale, but for Paul Jump, the love of trucks and driving them remains as pleasurable – his word – now as it did during the honeymoon in 1967.
Everything else has changed: the trucks are smarter, the highways more crowded and other drivers more impatient and reckless. Yet, when he meets a new class of truck driver wannabes at the NC Truck Driver Training School (NCTDTS) at Johnston Community College, the first question he asks is, “Do you love to drive?” If the answer is unenthusiastic, he knows that driver probably won’t last in the demanding world of truck driving.
“You have to enjoy driving,” Jump said, “and be able to perform like a professional driver.”
In this case, professional means strict adherence to traffic laws and truck safety, plus the know-how to care for whatever load is being pulled.
Jump retires this year after 28 years with the program, where he started as an instructor and leaves as program director. The NCTDTS has been continuously training truck drivers since 1949, when it started at NC State College before moving under the auspices of JCC in 1974. Indisputably, this makes it the oldest truck training program in the United States and, as far as Jump can tell, in the whole world.
The shelves of his office are crammed with dozens of toy trucks, mostly gifts from grateful trucking companies who appreciate the caliber of JCC trucking graduates. The bulletin boards outside his office overflow with job openings from those companies.
Truck technology has evolved alongside that of their automobile cousins, but that isn’t the biggest challenge facing the driver.
"They have to keep up with state regulations that change as they cross state lines,"Jump said. For example, every state requires a driver to keep track of every mile logged in each state for mileage fuel taxes. Thankfully, there’s an app for that.
Jump started trucking with the United Parcel Service making $2.25 an hour, which was good money 50 years ago. Today, NCTDTS graduates start at $40,000 to $45,000. After years of experience, the best can make $80,000 and more hauling specialized cargo.
Depending on the load, a driver needs to be part chemist or part physicist. Most goods are transported via truck.
Truck drivers easily move into logistics or mechanics when they quit driving. The major downside to the truck driver’s life hasn’t changed: the long days away from family eventually cause most drivers to park it at some point. Jump admits that was one of the reasons he became an instructor. But it’s still a lifestyle he enjoyed and encourages for other drivers.
“I was lucky to fall in love with driving a truck,” he said. “If I had to do it all over again, trucking is what I’d do.”
Meet Paul Jump and discuss the possibilities at the free Career in a Year Showcase, March 21, 6 to 8 p.m. at the JCC Tart Building lobby. Finish the program in 8 weeks – attending classes held daily from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. – or 12 weeks attending evenings and weekends.
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