SIX EARN KEYS TO THE FUTURE

LIHU’E — “He’s not going to come early, because we all got our license,” joked Ramah Wong while waiting on the arrival of their certified Commercial Driver’s License class instructor Steven Carvalho.

Wong was one of the final students in the seven-member class who passed his driving test, Wednesday afternoon, bringing the number of successful Type A license students to six.

Thomas Liu, who was part of the class, successfully passed his permit test, and will be aiming for his license in an upcoming class, the successful permit student being congratulated by the six licensed drivers.

“Wow, I can’t believe that this is the third class,” Carvalho said. “That means there’re about 50 certified Type A drivers out there now.”

Carvalho’s first class was the largest, with 30 students, he recalled. His second class numbered about a dozen students, and that number dropped to seven students in this class who celebrated the class completion with the students earning their Type A CDL license.

Wong said the class, which started back on July 12, involved classroom work, learning about the “big rigs” and, finally, learning and practicing the driving techniques on how to safely maneuver and control the trucks that normally haul loads of freight and other big items.

Part of the classroom work also involves working with the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Workforce Development people, Wong said. “It’s not just learning about getting the permit.”

Following the classroom work, Wong said they each went for a test to get their permit, before advancing on to the next phase.

But, the most difficult part, according to Wong, was the inspection before the actual license road test. “It was long,” he said as he extracted a yellow copy of the inspection checklist that covered all aspects of the big truck, and was clearly marked ‘Passed.’

“You even had to check the mounting bolts on some of the components.”

“Today was our last two licenses,” Wong said.

With their successful passage of the Type A test, the six students beamed proudly. James Nizo, another of the successful students, noted, “I got a job that I start Monday with Veterans Express. But, another student, Winna Kaohelauli’i, he’s already working for Veterans,” Kaohelauli’i just happened to be passing the Vidinha Stadium parking lot en route to his home station at the Lihu’e Industrial Park Phase I.

Kaohelauli’i flashed a big smile and a shaka before disappearing around the corner.

“I’ve got several offers to consider,” said Seagram Flores, another successful student. “But, I think I’m going to spend a week off before checking into any of them.”

Flores, during the course, was recently enjoying some shoreline fishing with his children at Nawiliwili Harbor, the dad shepherding the group who were intent on hooking some ‘oama.

“The pay is good,” Michael Wheable added. “Starting pay for Type A drivers run around $14 an hour, and some companies go higher than that.

“And, Fredstan Kaluahine is one hell of a guy. See that rig? That’s a 2005 model Kenworth that he made available so we could work with it,” he added.

Wheable, as a demonstration of his knowledge about the rig he learned on, said that one of the features of the truck is that it has two, 100gallon diesel fuel tanks that cost about $600 to fill up.

“But, it also can haul a lot of product, so it’s not that bad,” he said, noting that the new truck gets about five to six miles a gallon.

He also pointed out that the cab had air conditioning and stereo that was surrounded by an array of toggle switches.

Students in the class included Flores, Nizo, Wong, Moses Keale, Kaohelauli’i and Wheable.

Carvalho said the classes are coordinated through Kaua’i Community College’s Office of Continuing Education and Training program.

“Today is a drive-alone day,” Wheable beamed. “You wanna ride around the block?”

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