In 2020, San Bernardino Valley College launched a comprehensive electric truck technician training program which graduated its first five students in December 2021. This initiative was funded by the Volvo LIGHTS (Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions) Project, which is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide program that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work to reduce greenhouse emissions, strengthen the economy, and improve public health and the environment.

The program launch coincided with the onset of COVID-19 resulting in canceled courses and an enrollment of only two students. In 2021, fifteen students enrolled in the program and eleven are continuing their studies of heavy/medium duty electric truck technician training. In 2021, the first cohort of students graduated from Valley College’s Volvo LIGHTS program. All five of the graduates received $1000 scholarships from Southern California Edison.Electric Truck

Berchman “Kenny” Melancon is the faculty chair of the Heavy/Medium Duty Trucks Technology program at Valley College. Melancon helped design the curriculum for the program and is the only full-time faculty member. The certificate is a 22-unit program. Students have the option of completing general education courses to receive an associate degree. “The Volvo grant allowed us to purchase the equipment to use in our lab area for the curriculum we’re teaching,” says Melancon.Electric Truck

The current Heavy/Medium Duty Trucks facility is located across the street from Valley College’s main campus. The laboratory is filled with hands-on equipment which has been donated by companies like Volvo, Freightliner, and Allison. The equipment is priced within the $30,000 to $60,000 range. Volvo recently donated a Zero Emission Heavy Duty Truck for hands-on training. The San Bernardino Valley College Foundation submitted a community funding request for up to $1.5 million to Congressman Pete Aguilar’s office to purchase two trucks and two trailers.

On April 8th, a groundbreaking ceremony was held to celebrate construction on a new Applied Technology Building which will house the Heavy/Medium Duty Trucks program. The construction is estimated to take roughly 3 years and costs $20 million.

Funding from Volvo LIGHTS ended this year. Funding now comes from Southern California Edison and SoCalGas. Many students involved in this program are given scholarships to put toward their educations and books are often paid for and used in multiple classes.

“They’re saying by 2026, all diesel buses are gone. They’re almost all gone now. So, they [buses] either will be CNG (compressed natural gas) or electric,” says Melancon. “One of our students was working for Riverside Transit Authority washing buses, cleaning windows, but he couldn’t get into the shop. He came to class, he graduated, he took extra courses and when he finished SoCalGas gave us scholarship money for him to take a national tank inspector exam. He passed the exam and got his license. He was moved into the shop, and recently became a supervisor.”

Currently, manufacturers of electric trucks provide in-house training for the maintenance of these vehicles, but as warranties expire the demand for electric-truck technicians will increase. California is moving away from gas-powered vehicles which will also increase the demand for technicians. Valley College is only public college in the area that offers a certificate program for heavy/medium duty electric truck maintenance.

Melancon says his hope is that high schools continue to offer automotive education to students, so that high school graduates are more inclined to enroll in public college programs like these.

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