TuSimple truck

The Autonomous Vehicle Driver and Operations Specialist certificate program will start this fall.

Pima Community College and self-driving truck company TuSimple have teamed up to launch the first autonomous driving certificate program for truck drivers.

The Autonomous Vehicle Driver and Operations Specialist certificate program will start this fall. The program will prepare individuals for jobs such as managing the autonomous system as test drivers, operating the vehicle in situations where autonomous driving is not suitable and remotely monitoring the system from a command center.

Experienced truck drivers will be able to learn how to operate and work with autonomous trucks in as quickly as one semester.

The program requires a Class A commercial driver’s license prior to enrollment.

TuSimple and Pima Community College have created a curriculum for the 12-credit certificate program, which comprises five classes: Introduction to Autonomous Vehicles, Industrial Safety, Computer Hardware Components, Electrical Systems I, and Transportation and Traffic Management.

TuSimple will prioritize hiring graduates of the certificate program for jobs at its Tucson testing and development center, PCC said.

“It’s clear that the future of truck transportation will offer new employment opportunities for today’s drivers but it will require a set of new skills,” PCC Chancellor Lee Lambert said in a news release, citing the need for competencies in areas including logistics, information technology and automated industrial technology.

Xiaodi Hou, TuSimple’s founding president and chief technology officer, said the program will help address an acute truck-driver shortage.

The American Trucking Association said the shortage could reach 175,000 drivers by 2024 as the current drivers age and the industry is approaching an annual 100% driver turnover rate.

“The program offers driving professionals a smooth transition into an emerging field that requires different skill sets in addition to existing truck driving knowledge by providing training,” Hou said.

TuSimple is in the process of hiring hundreds of workers for its Tucson technology center and is already piloting commercial loads with self-driving trucks with human monitors on Interstate 10, with a planned two-week pilot program with the U.S. Postal Service to haul mail between Phoenix and Dallas distribution centers.

PCC will begin offering the program starting in September, with registration starting in August.

For information or to enroll, call Pima Community College’s Center for Transportation Training at 206-2744 or go to pima.edu/truck-driver-cert.

Contact senior reporter David Wichner at dwichner@tucson.com or 573-4181. On Twitter: @dwichner. On Facebook: Facebook.com/DailyStarBiz

Senior reporter covering business and technology for the Arizona Daily Star/Tucson.com