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Truck training under way in Butts County

Rather than simply snipping a ribbon to celebrate the opening of the new Commercial Truck Driver Training Range, organizers decided to drive a truck through it.

Rather than simply snipping a ribbon to celebrate the opening of the new Commercial Truck Driver Training Range, organizers decided to drive a truck through it.

Southern Crescent Technical College hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony Monday at its Butts County campus, to announce the grand opening of its new Commercial Truck Driver Training Range along Ga. Highway 16 West, just outside of Jackson.

College officials decided to move Southern Crescent Tech’s commercial driver’s license program from its Griffin campus to Butts County for a number of reasons, according to Southern Crescent Technical College President Randall Peters.

“It was becoming difficult to move brand new student drivers in and out of traffic in Griffin. It’s a little bit iffy putting them out there for the very first time in a place like Griffin,” said Peters. “Down here, it’s more rural, there’s less traffic, and it’s easier to get them in and out of that parking lot for their first time out.

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Butts County Commission Chairman Roger McDaniel (from left), Interim County Administrator J. Michael Brewer, Southern Crescent Technical College President Randall Peters, Jackson Mayor Wayne Phillips and State Rep. Susan Holmes hold the ceremonial ribbon that, rather than being cut, was driven through by a tractor trailer.

“The Griffin campus is also under pressure for parking spaces,” Peters added.

The driver training program teaches students wishing to learn how to properly operate a commercial vehicle, and allows them to work toward earning their commercial driver’s license.

Frankie Willis, president of Trucks, Inc., in Jackson, said the most critical issue facing the trucking industry is the shortage of properly qualified truck drivers in the labor force. Peters said he hopes that through the exposure of Monday’s ceremony, more people will think about becoming trained.

“Some people [drive trucks] straight out of college, some do it as a second career,” said Peters. “With this program here, hopefully more people will start thinking about driving trucks, because the most advertised job in Georgia is truck driving, yet some people don’t even think about it when deciding on a career.”

Community leaders J. Michael Brewer, Roger McDaniel, and Wayne Phillips all gave remarks at the ceremony. Brewer, the interim county manager, said the addition of the driver training facility shows how well the Butts County campus has been progressing since being established just a few years ago.

“Back in 2003, this place was just an idea that was born in the community. Then, several years later we had the resources and personnel in place to do it, and the community involvement was tremendous,” said Brewer, who also serves as the chairman of the Board of Directors for Southern Crescent Technical College. “We raised $523,000 of community funds from businesses, individuals and civic groups in this community in a period of two months. That alone speaks volumes about the commitment of this community to this college.”

Brewer said the college made a proposal to pay the county $362,000 to utilize its public works department to complete the training range project.

“This expansion will offer new opportunities in the advancement in the lives of our citizens in Butts County, as well as the surrounding counties that utilize this whole region,” Brewer added. “It represents a joint venture by the college and the Butts County Board of Commissioners. The investment from the project will continue to pay dividends for years to come.”