Go inside largest commercial driver examination center in Texas, creating more career opportunities

Published 12:40 am Friday, April 14, 2023

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Lamar State College Port Arthur’s plan to create the largest commercial driver examination center in the state also comes with even more opportunities to learn a craft.

Beyond a curve in the road on FM 3514 in Beaumont are acres of cement and several buildings and the site of the new commercial driver training school. The center is designed to be double the size of any of the current Texas mega testing centers, said Ben Stafford, LSCPA dean of workforce and continuing education.

The project sits on 24 acres of land donated to the college by Jefferson County and is a joint venture between LSCPA, Jefferson County and T.L.L. Temple Foundation. It is expected to open in June.

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But that is just the first phase to train future industry workers. The project will also feature tanker trailer loading stations, a functional tank farm and a rail tanker loading simulation and maritime vessel tanker loading simulation.

Phase 1: commercial drivers

One of the buildings on site will house 25 to 30 examiners in what Stafford called a bullpen — a big room with computers around the walls.

As each examiner finishes with a test, they would go to the building, sit down at a computer and then go out to the next test.

The 18-wheelers will pull forward to two big covered shelters that will hold two trucks on each side. This is where pre-trip exams are done.

Truck drivers will be able to pull out to the test lanes where they will back up, do parallel parking and angle parking.

Stafford said the drive lanes are 500 feet long.

There is also a pre-trip exam, a backing and parking exam and then a driving exam.

In Texas there are four mega testing centers in Houston and one in Livingston.

Phases 2-4

As Stafford spoke at the site this week, there was a bustle of activity with heavy equipment workers moving about and cement being poured.

Phases 2-4 are in partnership between LSCPA, Emerson Automation Solutions and Scallon Controls. They are still in the design phase.

An early look at the plans shows innovation and a look to the future of CDL training.

Phase 2 consists of adding two tanker trailer-loading stations to the site and is scheduled to be complete by the end of the first quarter in 2024.

“This will allow the college to teach students techniques for loading liquids and possibly pressurized gasses on to and off of motor vehicle tanker trailers,” Stafford said.

He explained the college will not just train a person to drive but how to appropriately load a tanker vessel. Students will be able to practice backing up a trailer to a dock loading facility just as they would if pulling up at a refinery.

The student would input their digital bill of lading, which is used in shipping, as well as their load number and code. The system would load the trailer with the items they are supposed to receive. This will enable the student to practice loading and offloading.

“Phase 3 is planned for completion by the end of first quarter 2025,” he said. “This phase will add a functional tank farm to the back of the property. The tank farm will consist of four to six vessels. Some will contain liquid and some of the vessels may contain pressurized gases.”

The vessels will tie to the tanker trailer loading simulators via pumps and an overhead pipe rack. Once the tank farm is installed and functional, the college will begin to offer a certificate in tank farm management.

Stafford elaborated, saying students can sit in a classroom at the site and earn a certificate in tank yard management, how to move fluid from vessel to vessel, how to move that fluid into a loading vessel and queue it up to load as the tanker arrives.

Phase 4, which is set for completion in late 2026, adds even more to the site — a “rail tanker simulation and maritime vessel tanker loading simulation.”

“Each of these simulations will have loading vessels next to them and will tie to the tank yard via pumps and an overhead pipe rack,” Stafford said. “Once the rail and maritime simulations are installed the college will begin to offer a certificate in terminal management.”

Stafford said they are going to add an actual piece of a tanker car to be used in the tanker loading simulation and a maritime ship all tied in with Wi-Fi into the control system.

Lamar University engineering students who are process engineers will be able to control it as well as LSCPA process operator students.

The goal is to build a small refinery to allow students to get hands-on training.

This, he said, will be something that doesn’t even exist in the State of Texas at this point.

“And that’s when we can teach an entire certification and terminal management,” Stafford said. “We will have every piece of a terminal just like the Texaco refineries. Texaco docks, it’s got the Texaco rail. It’s got tanker trailers coming in and out constantly. It’s all tied together with an overhead pipe rack. So all that stuff will look like a little refinery out there.”

More career opportunities are added as each piece of the plan comes together.

Stafford said once phases 2-4 are complete, the system will be controlled by an Emerson DeltaV Control system. The system will allow process technology students at LSCPA and engineering and port management students at LU to control operations.

“On the noncredit side of the college, we will see a lot of hands-on training on this new property. LSCPA partners with the Associated Builders and Contractors of Southeast Texas to teach welding and we envision welding students learning to weld pipe in an overhead pipe rack just as they will in one of the local refineries,” he said.  “We hope to see partnership with Lamar State College Orange for hands-on training in their maritime program.”