Missouri American Water Finds Great Value in STLCC’s Truck Driving Program

By on September 13, 2019
STLCC CDL program Missouri American Water success story

When Tom Masters became operations supervisor for Missouri American Water in St. Charles County in 2016, he immediately faced the need to train two new hires for their Class A commercial driver’s licenses (CDL). American Water’s bargaining unit employees perform a wide variety of functions, working main breaks or leaking service lines and operating multiple types of heavy machinery. These employees must be able to safely drive the company’s trucks, so a CDL is required for employment.

Masters has worked for American Water for more than 30 years primarily in the St. Louis County office, so he knew the company traditionally used internal supervisors to prepare new employees for the CDL test. However, over time many of the trainers had either moved on or up in the company and were unavailable to train anymore. Masters’ colleague from the St. Louis County office sent him information about the training program they used – St. Louis Community College’s (STLCC) CDL-A professional truck driving program – and Masters immediately saw the value.

“Going through formal education gives us legitimate and valid training that gets these guys prepared,” said Masters.

Thorough, hands-on CDL-A preparation centered on safety

STLCC’s professional truck driving training includes classroom and video instruction as well as practical driving range and road experience. Some of the skills students learn include vehicle systems inspection and diagnosing malfunctions; straight-line, off-side, parallel and 90-degree angle backing; space and speed management; hazard perception; and visual scanning while driving safely. The Class A CDL training also includes a trailer so students can learn how to perform inspections, couple and uncouple the trailer, and master the backing skills made much more advanced by the trailer.

Missouri American Water’s St. Louis County and St. Charles County offices have collectively sent nearly 20 students through STLCC’s professional truck driving program over the years, and the employees Masters has sent have all had positive things to say about the program.

“The class is spot on. Every one of my employees who has gone through it has said it’s the best class,” he declared. “What they liked most about it was there was a lot of hands-on time in the truck, a lot of driving. The instructors were very, very patient, and very good about knowing when to step in and help and when to be hands off and let them figure it out.”

Students who successfully complete the program move on to take the CDL test that STLCC schedules with the Missouri Highway Patrol on their behalf. The test measures the student’s ability to thoroughly inspect a vehicle, demonstrate several backing maneuvers and drive safely on the road.

“The class preparation made it very easy for them to take the test,” stated Masters. “They said the class was harder than the test, and all of them have passed and brought their CDL licenses back.”

Value delivered to American Water and its employees every step of the way

Masters noted multiple areas where American Water and its employees receive substantial benefits from the program beyond simply achieving the CDL.

“Ever since I got in touch with the College’s program manager, it has been a very easy task to get these employees trained,” Masters said. “We’ve consistently been able to get employees licensed within the 180-day qualification period.”

If a new hire failed the CDL test in years past, American Water’s internal team would expend a fair amount of time and effort training that individual.

“Everyone who’s gone through the STLCC program has been one and done, so it’s a savings to the company,” Masters said.

Students can bring the American Water trucks to training that they will use out in the field, allowing them to get valuable experience with these specialized vehicles in a controlled setting.

“The fact that they can take the vehicle they’re going to be driving and responsible for to the class and get their license on that particular vehicle is a huge benefit,” said Masters.

Employees with a CDL also have an edge when it comes to career advancement opportunities.

“When you apply for a job at this company, having a CDL is an automatic plus that gives that candidate a benefit over the others who don’t have the CDL,” said Masters. “Also, it’s a résumé builder for the candidates that want to advance inside the company. And if they decide to go outside the company and look for other opportunities, it’s a definite benefit for them, too.”

Overall, Masters is pleased with the experience he and his employees have had with STLCC’s CDL program.

“It’s been very positive. There is value to the class. There is a financial value to my company,” said Masters. “STLCC’s class has been a real help to me and I’m pleased with every part of this process. I’d highly recommend it.”

To discuss fleet training opportunities for your organization, please contact Rene Dulle, STLCC truck driving program manager, at rdulle4@stlcc.edu.

Missouri American Water truck used in STLCC CDL program training

One of the Missouri American Water trucks used in the STLCC CDL program training.

Missouri American Water truck used in STLCC CDL program training

One of the Missouri American Water trucks used in the STLCC CDL program training.

Missouri American Water employee

Missouri American Water employee working in the field.

About Rebecca Rutherford

Rebecca Rutherford is Marketing Communications Coordinator of St. Louis Community College’s Workforce Solutions Group, which delivers non-credit continuing education opportunities, corporate training and community services to the St. Louis region.

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