Above, Waukegan city officials including Mayor Wayne Motley at the recent ribbon cutting for 160 Driving Academy. – 160 Driving Academy photo
by Long Hwa-shu
Pointing to a nationwide shortage of 300,000 truck drivers, Steve Gold, founder and owner of a truck driving school has opened his 12th school in Waukegan.
The average truck driver makes more than $50,000 a year. There is a shortage of drivers. – Steve Gold
“The response has been excellent since we opened six months ago. We expect to train 200 drivers at the school this year,” said Gold who founded the 160 Driving Academy based in Joliet in 2012.
The number in the name refers to the 160 hours needed for a student to complete his or her training at the school. The Waukegan branch, staffed by five instructors, is on three acres at 320 S. Green Bay Road.
Gold who grew up in Glencoe and attended New Trier High School, said he founded the school after a survey he did showed most schools in the country did not provide the needed quality training truck drivers deserved. According to Gold, there are three million truck drivers in the country hauling goods and making interstate commerce a vital part of the nation’s economy.
“What sets us apart from other vocational schools is that we not only provide quality training, but we also place out students in actual jobs before they complete their training and graduate from our course,” stressed Gold who said he has ties with more than 30 trucking companies that would hire his students training for a commercial driver’s license.
Qualified students, he said, can have their tuition which costs $4,000 subsidized by some of the largest trucking companies in the country.
“As a trusted partner to some of the nation’s major trucking companies, we have created this innovative model for our students allowing them to obtain training in four weeks, get a guaranteed job before they graduate and have the opportunity to earn more than $40,000 in the first year,” said Gold.
The average truck driver makes more than $50,000 a year, according to industry experts.
One of the advantages of Gold’s schools is that they offer on-site testing for Illinois students. In conjunction with the Illinois Secretary of State’s office, students can take their commercial driver’s license driving exam at the school instead of having to travel to a state’s licensing facility. In addition, the school will provide a truck to the student for the exam.
160 Driving Academy has branch schools in Rockford, Peoria, Moline, Chicago Heights, Champaign, Belleville, Milwaukee, Detroit and Saginaw, Mich. The Waukegan School with Amanda Maurer as branch manager, also serves the Kenosha and Racine area.
Gold, who as owner of the academy said he plans to open more branches this year including locations in Kansas; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Des Moines, Iowa.
“There’s a major shortage of qualified truck drivers,” he reiterated.