DeJoy shares his love and experience of driving big rigs with the next generation.
Eighteen years ago Robert DeJoy decided he wanted to leave his banking career and hit the open road in a big rig. He never imagining he would one day be teaching the truck driving class.
DeJoy enrolled in the Flagler Technical Institute in 1998 to earn his CDL license, and some freedom.
“You control your destiny and you do what you want to do.” ROBERT DEJOY, FTI instructor
“I had been in banking for 24 years,” DeJoy said. “I told them I was getting my master’s degree, but I was going to truck driving school. I always wanted to drive big trucks.”
Before settling into his career as a teacher, DeJoy drove big rigs, cross-country, and in his words, “loved it.”
“There’s no better job in the world,” DeJoy said. “The money is good and the freedom is there. You are your own boss. You control your destiny and you do what you want to do.”
There is more to becoming a truck driver than climbing behind the wheel. DeJoy teaches an 8-week course, 320 hours of instruction, before his students take their final test and hopefully earn their CDL license. FTI boasts a 99.8% graduate placement rate.
“It’s a lifestyle, not a 9 to 5 job,” DeJoy said. “The downside is you miss being home. That’s tough if you have young children.”
He teaches about 35 students a year, not only how to handle a big truck safely, but trip planning, how to keep log books, and how to read a map.
“We use maps,” DeJoy said. “GPS is a good tool in conjunction to the maps but it will put you on roads you shouldn’t be on.”
One driver told DeJoy that his GPS put him on the Tail of the Dragon, an 11-mile stretch on U.S. 129 in North Carolina that has 318 curves.
“Once he was on this road he couldn’t get out,” DeJoy said. “GPS get you there the quickest way but not the safest or most practical way.”
DeJoy said his students come from all walks of life.
“When the economy wasn’t much, we got a lot of construction workers,” DeJoy said. “It’s pretty gratifying because we have people who haven’t worked in four or five years, and they graduate and they are making good money, $ 55,000, out of the chute.”
DeJoy emphasized that although the pay and benefits are good, there has to be a desire to drive.
“If you are just doing this to make money, you are not going to like it at all,” he said. “You have to have a passion. It’s not for everybody.”
DeJoy admits that he never thought he would be teaching at FTI. He taught banking at Daytona State College, but never imagined this is where his FTI training would take him.
“It’s a good program, and I think we put out a high quality product,” he said. “The students that graduate from here are in demand and they have confidence in themselves.”