Blazing a Trail From Behind a Big Wheel
From struggling to make ends meet to bringing in half of a six-figure income, UCC provided Jessica with a life-changing opportunity.
ROSEBURG, Oregon – When Jessica Luttrell moved to Douglas County five years ago, it was a struggle just to put food on the table. While she did everything from tutoring to working at a local fast food restaurant, her husband—an electrician by trade—would stand on a street corner with a sign that stated “Looking for work.” Paying bills was a challenge.
“At the time, I remember thinking how terrible things were,” Jessica said.
Being new to the area, Jessica was exposed to new, eye-catching things. She couldn’t help but notice how many log trucks and chip trucks were on the roads. Big trucks were everywhere she looked. She told herself she needed to learn how to drive one of these trucks in order to get ahead.
“Everyone I talked to about (becoming a truck driver) told me I was a girly-girl,” she said. “They told me I should become a receptionist or something, but my husband, Jerry, encouraged me to do what I wanted.”
Jessica and her family live in Days Creek. While driving on the interstate one day, she made a life-changing discovery. She saw the Umpqua Community College (UCC) Truck Driving School near the Round Prairie Road exit, and decided to stop at the yard.
“The guys I met there that day were really nice and helpful,” she said. “They told me to work on getting my permit, so that’s exactly what I did.”
With her commercial learner’s permit in hand, Jessica started school in 2014. She was able to participate in the training thanks to a grant through Umpqua Training and Employment. Part of the program’s requirements included interviewing three truck drivers. To accomplish the goal, she spent her time walking around truck stops asking drivers questions.
“To qualify for the grant, they wanted to make sure I knew what I was getting into, so I had to do some research,” she said.
Four weeks after starting school, Jessica completed the program and was ready to hit the road. She was hired by a trucking company based in California. During her first three months on the job, her husband decided he would go through UCC’s Truck Driving program as well. After he completed the program, they became team drivers for the same company. For the first time in their lives, they no longer qualified for any kind of assistance.
“We are so grateful,” Jerry said. “We now have careers, benefits, retirement accounts, health care, everything. And, we’re on track to make six figures this year.”
“Without the grant, and without the school, we wouldn’t have been able to do what we did,” Jessica said. “It has totally changed our lives.”
The Luttrell’s no longer team drive, and each works for a different company. Jerry is a regional driver who is home every weekend. And last September, Jessica became the first woman truck driver at Umpqua Dairy.
“Before I started UCC’s Truck Driving program, I didn’t even know how to jump (start) my own car,” she said. “And now, I can drive anything from a flatbed to a tanker.”
UCC’s Truck Driving program is offered through Community and Workforce Training. Upon program completion, UCC provides graduates with job placement assistance. For more information, visit umpqua.edu/commercial-truck-driving.
About Umpqua Community College
Nestled in the beautiful North Umpqua River Valley, Umpqua Community College is the regional center for higher education in Douglas County, Oregon. UCC provides high quality college degree programs, workforce development, and community learning opportunities.
Community and Workforce Training
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