Fargo's 160 Driving Academy training next generation of American truckers

Since opening in Fargo last fall, 160 Driving Academy has seen 23 students receive their Class A commercial driver’s license. The school is working to fill the gap in the nation’s trucker shortage.

Rod Lux of Jamestown, as seen on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, is in the last week of his CDL training at 160 Driving Academy, a truck driving school in Fargo. The course is four weeks long. Lux is doing a pre-trip examination to check the readiness and safety of the truck.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

FARGO — The best part of Larry Hayes’ job looks back at him each day.

He is referring to the printed pictures taped to the wall of his office inside 160 Driving Academy at 3402 13th Ave. S. in Fargo. The dozen or so photos commemorate each of the academy’s graduates, who have successfully completed coursework and training to obtain a Class A commercial driver’s license.

160 Driving Academy has locations nationwide, opening in Fargo last fall year. The school plans to hold a ribbon cutting ceremony and open house for prospective students at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 24.

Larry Hayes, the branch manager for 160 Driving Academy - Fargo at his office on Tuesday, May 16, 2023.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

The photos, as Hayes explains, show more than just newly-licensed commercial drivers. They exemplify how people of all backgrounds have taken control of their careers — and significantly increased their earnings potential in the process.


Staying focused

160 Driving Academy’s program consists of one week of virtual instruction and three weeks at the business’s yard in West Fargo. Instruction takes place from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Much of that time is devoted to acing the crucial pre-trip inspection. Students can expect to spend six hours per day on the inspection alone.

The stakes are high for inspections, Hayes explained. One mistake will result in an automatic failure for those taking their tests. “You can jeopardize your license if you don’t operate your vehicle properly,” he said. “It’s a massive piece of machinery and there’s no room to make mistakes with something like that.”

Todd Unwin, left, an instructor at 160 Driving Academy, talks with Terry Carter, an NDSU student studying mechanical engineering and also training to get his CDL. 160 is a truck driving school where students take a four-week course to get a CDL. The main office is located at 3402 13th Ave. S. in Fargo. The students do their driver training in West Fargo.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

There is no margin for error, which is why Jamestown resident and student Rod Lux could be seen talking to himself Tuesday, May 16, at 160’s training yard. Lux was walking himself through each step of the pre-trip inspection, which he’ll need to recite come test day.

Instructor Todd Unwin said students are provided with a manual which he called their “Bible” because students would do well to read it day and night. He even advised students to purchase a toy or model truck to practice their pre-trip inspection at home.

160 Driving Academy instructor Todd Unwin on Tuesday, May 16, 2023 in West Fargo where students practice driving.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

The program is rigorous, Hayes said, but he advised students to keep their eyes on the prize. “There’s not much you can do training-wise where you can focus for four weeks and significantly change your life. Income and career opportunities, they’re endless,” he commented.

‘A huge win’

All told, the 160 Driving Academy course costs $5,145. That figure includes tuition, two testing attempts, a Department of Transportation physical and drug screening, Hayes explained.

Those who meet eligibility requirements can have their tuition reimbursed through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The program is administered through Job Service North Dakota and those interested may contact their local Job Service office for more information.


From left to right, Anthony daSilva, Deen Gbaryee, and Dan Binde are training for their CDL at 160 Driving Academy. Students take a four-week course that includes classroom instruction and behind-the-wheel training.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

Hayes credited the state and Job Service for providing the funding and directing students to the academy. “You’ve got to thank North Dakota. That’s a huge win to get people back into the workforce,” he remarked. “They’ve been a great partner for us. We’ve had a lot of students come through them.”

The shortage of truckers was a persistent headline throughout the pandemic as the world dealt with supply chain difficulties. Hayes said the issue existed even prior to the pandemic. Now, 160 Driving Academy and schools like it are educating the next generation of truckers.

Hayes noted that the transportation industry touches everyone, and everything, throughout the United States. “If you think about the transportation industry, nothing in this country can be bought or sold unless it’s transported to a retail space,” he said. “Everything we touch, everything we use on a day-to-day basis comes via truck, train or boat. The majority of that is done by the trucking industry though.”

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A new life in 4 weeks

Since opening, 160 Driving Academy has had 23 students obtain licenses. Across the company’s 130-plus nationwide locations, the school trained 14,000 drivers in 2022.

Hayes counts those 23 students as 23 lives changed. He'll note that the career is both in demand and well-compensated. To further boost their earning potential, students can also receive training on handling hazardous materials. For example, he points to Farstad Oil Company in West Fargo, which boasts an average annual pay of $85,000 to $90,000.

Larry Hayes, the branch manager of 160 Driving Academy in Fargo hangs photos in his office of graduates of the truck driving school. "I love coming here every morning seeing all these guys come through here and graduate," Hayes said. "That's what really makes me happy is that I know that I've done my job, enrolled someone, they've gotten their CDL and they're off to a good start in life."
Chris Flynn / The Forum

Hayes said the school draws from all walks of life, with students both young and old. Anyone is welcome to apply, even those with no prior experience. “There’s no background knowledge required and that’s the great thing that I found interested me the most with this company,” Hayes, who has experience as a recruiter in the industry, said. “I haven’t found anything else out there where you can go through four weeks of training and come out with a career.”

Fittingly, Hayes’ goal is to train 160 students this year. If the academy reaches that mark, his office walls will be overflowing with photos of graduates, but he likely won’t mind.


“The thing I love about this program, I love coming here every morning and seeing all these guys come through here and they graduate. That’s what really makes me happy,” he said while admiring his collection of photos. “I know I’ve done my job, I’ve enrolled someone, they’ve got their CDL and they’re off to a good start in life.”


Thomas Evanella is a reporter for The Forum. He's worked for The Forum for over three years, primarily reporting on business news. He's also the host of the InForum Business Beat podcast, which can be streamed at or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Reach him at or by calling 701-241-5518. Follow him on Twitter @ThomasEvanella.
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