The Commercial Driver's License program at Walla Walla Community College is back in motion after a three-year hiatus.

The program initially was put on pause in 2020 when the program’s instructor, Steve Harvey, retired. While the original plan was only to halt the program until a new instructor was hired, the pandemic came along and changed those plans.

“We had some budget restraints at the time, and so we just put it on pause for what we thought was going to be a short period of time,” said Jerry Anhorn, dean of workforce education. “Then COVID hit, and we were just trying to maintain our programs. As soon as we were able to come out of it, that was one of the first ones we were looking at saying, ‘Ok, we’ve got to bring this back.’”

Classes started back up on Wednesday, March 29. The program’s new instructor, Dustin Hyde, said the demand for CDL truck drivers has increased significantly in recent years.

“As demand has increased, the supply of truck drivers has not kept up,” Hyde said. “The American Truckers Association has reported a near 90,000 truck driver shortage for 2023.”

The program will be offered four quarters per year with classes from 2:30 to 8 p.m. Students also have the opportunity to attend after work or school. Each course lasts 11 weeks.

Anhorn said the college has received more applications for the program than it can handle. Between 15 and 20 students were accepted for the course that is currently underway.

Hyde said some students’ tuition will be partially paid for through a $623,000 grant the college received from the state.

“This grant covers $2,000 in tuition for 15 students to enroll each quarter,” Hyde said. “This is a huge benefit that will make a CDL more attainable to people seeking a great career.”

One student, Adrian Rubio, is a senior at Prescott High School. As a participant in the Running Start program, he was able to take the course at no cost. Running Start is offered through Walla Walla Community College and allows students to take tuition-free courses.

Rubio also recently got hired at an excavation company and now has a position that requires a CDL.

"The timing worked out perfectly," Rubio said. "My teacher told me they were bringing back the CDL classes to the CC, so I asked her if I could enroll in it and then since I'm still a high school student, my high school paid for it."

Rubio said he had learned so much more from the program than just driving.

"The program is very fun actually," Rubio said. "I've learned a lot. We're learning how to work on the trucks a little bit and how to take care of them, and how to drive with a big trailer as well."

Another student, Miguel Torres, said it had been difficult to learn how to properly back up, turn and shift gears, but he has learned a lot during the program.

"The teachers are really good at their job," Torres said. "It's the first year it's been back into session, so they're figuring things out as they go, but overall, they're doing a good job."

Torres is currently working on a two-year diesel technology degree at the college and works as a diesel mechanic at Byrnes Oil in Walla Walla. He said having a CDL would allow him to do more at his job. He was also able to take the course at a low cost because of the state grant.

"It did take off a huge amount," Torres said. "If anything, I owe a fraction of what it would have been full price."

Anhorn said that during the time WWCC was not offering CDL courses, students had to go to Pasco or Spokane to get their certification.

“Our community has a huge need,” Anhorn said. “Our community is agriculture-based, and all of those agricultural commodities are shipped by truck. There are no more farm exemptions. You really need a Class A CDL to drive those trucks on the road.”

Hyde said once students graduate from the WWCC’s program, they will immediately be in demand for jobs with a good living wage.

“Local employers need CDL drivers,” Hyde said. “They tell us it has been very difficult to get employees through a CDL program for in-house advancement without sending them great distances.”

He said CDL students also have the option to advance their skills with welding, diesel technology, John Deere technology, agriculture and other courses.

“Many of these trades involve commercial motor vehicles and a person who has a CDL may see their resume move to the top of the stack,” Hyde said.

Loryn Kykendall reports on health care and education. She can be reached at

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