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Driving instruction company opens new training center

Hunter Morrison

If you’ve seen student truck drivers in the Kenai area, they’re likely training with Kenai Peninsula Driving Instruction. Opened in 2016 as a training center for first-time vehicle drivers, the company is now the only provider in the state where student commercial drivers can get their permit, train and obtain their truck driving certification.

To date, nearly 800 students have completed the company’s commercial driver training program. In response to the company’s growth, Kenai Peninsula Driving Instruction recently built a new commercial training center off of Kenai Spur Highway. Opened in August, the four acre lot provides a larger space to train more student drivers. It also allows the company to perform maintenance on vehicles in-house.

“It’s beneficial because the building and yard suits our needs really well,” said Sarah Douthit, Student Training Specialist with Kenai Peninsula Driving Instruction. “It was specifically designed for what it’s doing. Everything can be modified or expanded if necessary, so we not only have room for us now but room to grow.”

The company trains five student commercial drivers every week, each receiving one-on-one instruction on the road. With an increased need for truck drivers, owner Alex Douthit says training them is crucial to the success of the peninsula’s economy.

“There’s a huge need in our community for local drivers, and that’s what I want to try to fill are those local positions so these other small companies from gravel work to septic pumping companies to garbage hauling,” he said. “There’s just a ton of work that needs to be happening in our community, and by having a training provider right here in our community, it makes that very obtainable for a lot of individuals to fill these needs in our community.”

The majority of students who have trained with the company and were not already employed are now working as commercial vehicle drivers. Some employers have even hired students on the training yard.

“They know our students are well educated and experienced with the training they received here, and they will hire them on the spot to go to drive and provide a lot of these necessary services all over the peninsula,” Sarah said. “So, definitely getting a lot of new people into the workforce, which is necessary right now.”

While she says that recent regulations have discouraged some people from seeking a CDL, the company is always happy to answer any questions. The success of local students is the Kenai Peninsula Driving Instruction’s top priority.

“We want people to see the success of our students because that’s what we’re here for,” Sarah said. “We’re here to build this business up because every single student that graduates, with this big smile on their face, they’re so excited, they’ve got their driver's license or their CDL for the first time. It opens up a world of opportunity for them, and it’s amazing, and it’s infectious when they’re so excited at the end.”

“When I started this business, I knew I wanted to keep it in Kenai,” Alex said. “Kenai has a lot of great potential for growth, so I wanted to really show that Kenai is here to help out businesses and grow businesses like ours, and that it is possible to open a new business. That’s one of the big reasons I wanted to stay within Kenai. ”

He added that while commercial driving might not be everyone’s forever career, it is always a good fallback. They urge anyone who has ever considered commercial driving to reach out.

Hunter Morrison is a news reporter at KDLL