Truck driving school pulls back into Visalia

Advanced Career Institute to build new truck driving, welding school at Visalia Industrial Park

The Sun-Gazette

VISALIA – A local truck driving school will not only be staying in the city limits but will build a new school campus that will also include welding classes.

Advanced Career Institute (ACI) has filed for permits with the City of Visalia to build a new 9.25 acre truck driving and welding school including a new 10,000-square foot metal building in the Visalia Industrial Park.

Second generation owner David Bither said the larger facility will allow ACI to consolidate its truck driving and welding schools and its offices on one campus. Truck driving courses are currently conducted at Knight Transportation in Tulare while the training center offices and welding school are held on two separate locations in the Visalia Industrial Park. ACI can only offer stationary truck training at its original campus, located at 1728 N. Kelsey. ACI operates its welding school at 8425 W. Elowin Court, about 500 feet southeast of the project site. 

“The goal is to be in place at the new property by the end of the year,” Bither said. 

Truck driving courses were moved to Tulare after ACI discovered its current site in the Visalia Industrial Park was not up to code after 26 years in business. ACI has been in operation at the site since 1993 but the site was never permitted for a truck driving school. Brandon Smith, project planner for the Visalia, said the city received a code enforcement complaint about the vocational school and when the city investigated it discovered the site never went through the proper permitting process for the site. In order to bring the site up to code, Smith said ACI would have had to make major improvements in the next six months to bring the site into compliance with current building, engineering, and accessibility requirements. Primarily, the one-acre site would have to be paved with asphalt as part of the request. 

Smith said ACI was initially interested in moving forward with the permit to ensure they did not have any interruptions in operation but then began searching for a new site outside the city limits. In February, the Visalia Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit allowing ACI to continue operating at its current site. The permit only allows ACI to continue providing classes at 1728 N. Kelsey St. through Dec. 31, 2020. During that time, ACI is only allowed to offer stationary vehicle training and the permit limits the number of stationary trucks and trailers to three in order to limit noise and dust from the unpaved are while the school works to relocate to a property outside the city limits. 

Following an orientation on Friday, students begin classes the following Monday, with class start times being staggered throughout the day. The majority of students attend a four-week, 160-hour program or an eight-week, 160-hour program. At any given time there are about two student applicants receiving a tour, 20 students receiving classroom and yard instruction, six instructors and eight administrative employees. Students do their final testing at the Commercial Testing Center in Fresno, and after successful completion return to the Kelsey campus to do final paper work.

ACI opened its truck driving school in 1986 in Southern California. It opened a second location in Visalia in 1993 and added its Fresno campus in 2000 where students learn to drive commercial trucks and buses. Eight years later, ACI began offering welding classes in Visalia. The welding program prepares students to obtain American Welding Society (AWS) welder performance qualifications in the horizontal, vertical, overhead, and 6G positions. 

Today, programs are held at three other campuses located between Bakersfield and Merced. The company has a history of employing administrative personnel while successfully providing vocational training, certification and job placement to hundreds of students, many of which continue to maintain their primary residence in Visalia.

“The growth of this sector continues to drive our decisions,” Bither said. “The trucking industry has been very solid and there are never enough welders to meet demand. There is a lot of competition for drivers which means positions are opening all the time and they are higher paying positions each year.”

For more information on ACI, visit Advanced.edu.

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