Former employee moves from job to classroom to full-time truck driver

Published on: October 6, 2022
Roy Powell is a former GTCC employee turned truck driver training student.
Roy Powell is a former GTCC employee turned truck driver training student.

When Roy Powell decided it was time for a career change, he didn't have to look far. He just sort of glanced over his shoulder and there it was.

Powell, a 53-year-old veteran with 10 years of service in the Navy, was a printer at Guilford Technical Community College for almost 20 years, a job he moved into after leaving the Navy where he also had been a printer.

Powell enjoyed his job in the GTCC print shop but changes in his life made him believe it was time to make a career move.

"I had been looking at trucking for a while and was thinking about starting (in a program) outside of GTCC, but then I heard there was going to be a trucking program here," said Powell, who grew up in Chicago, but moved to High Point when he left the Navy.

"I had no experience driving a truck whatsoever. It actually was a little scary. It was a brand-new thing for me, but I saw a great opportunity. Changing careers at that age is a little scary. I just decided I was going to do it. I jumped right in and did it. It's one of the best things I've ever done."

Powell enrolled in GTCC's weekend Truck Driver Training program in January. It is an intensive, compressed program, with students in school every Saturday and Sunday. He graduated in May and is the first former GTCC employee to graduate from the program.

It was the first time Powell had been in a classroom in more than 30 years, and he admits it was daunting at times. Failure, though, was not an option.

"School was like a career change for me," Powell said. "I didn't look at it as school. I looked at it as a job and failure was unacceptable," he said.

"Being older actually helped. Once you are older, you know how to manage your time. I had the discipline and motivation. When you are younger, you are still trying to find yourself."

The classroom part of the program was pretty much a breeze for Powell. The biggest hurdle he faced was getting behind the wheel of the tractor.

"The worst part for me, once I got into a truck was changing gears and the backing. I had no experience whatsoever driving a truck."

"But those skills," Powell said, "came with time."

After many hours on the driving range, Powell said, "Things clicked after a while. It's second nature now."

Powell and his classmates had to pass three different exams to graduate: pre-trip inspection, the range, and the road. It was the range that worried him the most.

"The most difficult test for me was on the range, but I made it through. I was so proud of myself. Straight backing was fine for me, but backing and maneuvering and putting the trailer in tights spots is difficult," he said.

Powell began applying for jobs a month before he graduated at the end of April. He was offered a couple of jobs where he would have started working on the loading dock and then worked up to driver. "I didn't want to work on the dock. I wanted to drive a truck," he said.

So, he bided his time until the right offer came along from UFI Transportation, a national company specializing in transporting furniture with a presence in Winston-Salem.

Just a few weeks on the job, Powell has traveled up and down the East Coast as far as Maine, into the Midwest as far as the Mississippi, and deep into the South.

"Actually, it hasn't been difficult for me because driving is soothing to me and seeing all the parts of the country is interesting," Powell said.

"It's been a smooth transition. Sometimes things happen, like a blowout, but for the most part it has been smooth. Like all jobs, you have good and bad parts, but it's what you make out of it."

Powell plans on making the most out of his new career, a career he'll forever be thankful to GTCC for launching.

"Let me tell you, GTCC has helped me tremendously. Being a prior employee, I knew there was so much opportunity at the college, you just have to take advantage of it," Powell said. "The trucking program changed my life. The instructors were so knowledgeable. They have been in the trucking game a long time; there's a lot of experience there. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't do it any other way."

For more information on the Truck Driver Training program, visit


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