COEUR d'ALENE, Idaho – A Coeur D'Alene woman went for a career change, but what she says she got instead, was scammed.
Laurie Thomas used to work as a massage therapist, but cut back on hours – and income – to chase her dream of becoming a trucker.
She enrolled in the ‘North Dakota Express' program at Sage Truck Driving School, a national company with a local school in Coeur D'Alene. She says the program is 3-4 weeks, designed to get people ready to work in the lucrative oil fields of North Dakota.
"Once they have your money, they work with you a little bit," Thomas told KHQ. "But once you start asking questions or you may have a complaint, you get shafted. They don't care."
She says her driving hours were delayed, she was treated poorly, and a student showed her the in-cab inspection because nobody else would.
At the end of her program, Laurie was scheduled to take her CDL driving test, but chose not to take it, because she felt she wasn't ready. She says there were no efforts made by the company to help her get ready or reschedule.
The Sage Corporation is based in Pennsylvania, and President & CEO Gregg Aversa responded by saying:
"Each month we enroll hundreds of students at our many schools across the country. The application process includes a great deal of information from the applicants such as previous education and training, prior work experience, personal physical condition, whether or not there was or is any use of drugs, personal goals, etc. The one important item that cannot be measured or tested during the enrollment process is the individual's ability to succeed in the program he or she has selected, even though they had met all of the prerequisites. During the training the progress of each student is very closely observed by the teaching staff, our school director and his or her staff assistant. A progress report is completed after every instructional session spent with each student whether the time was in the classroom, on the practice range, in the lab, or on the road. There comes a time when a very difficult decision has to be made and that is: will this individual ever be able to succeed in performing all of the skills necessary to complete what they set out to do. Eventually a decision has to be made when an individual simply cannot perform all of the skills necessary and should he or she not be allowed to continue in their program. The decision to not allow an individual to continue is always a very hard and disappointing one for everyone. The teaching staff feels they have failed, even though they put everything they had into their responsibilities, the director feels he/she should not have admitted the individual even though the student had met all of the prerequisites, and finally the student is very, very disappointed. Very often the student will begin to blame the school and others rather than accept the fact they just weren't able to perform the skills necessary. Those important skills such as shifting, braking, use of the clutch, etc. Are critical to being able to drive any vehicle. Any one of those skills, if not mastered, could cause tremendous accidents and unfortunately sometimes, death."
Frustrated and curious, Laurie Thomas went to the oil fields of North Dakota on her own. She was told it takes 2 years of experience to get a job.
"It's fraudulent advertising. It's not right. There's no way you can get somebody ready in three weeks for work there," she added. "I just feel it's a program that should not be offered through the school."
However, Gregg Aversa says, Laurie paid for 40 hours, but received an additional 48 hours for free, and still wasn't ready.
"The North Dakota program is one we offer to applicants that plan in working in that state upon completion. She may have felt the program was not long enough despite the fact she received 88 training hours in a program that normally takes 40 hours to complete. She paid for the 40 hours and was not charged for the additional 48 hours. The bottom line is she could have received any number of additional hours but more than likely would not have mastered the necessary basic skills," Aversa said.
Laurie says she never got those extra hours. In the end, she was reimbursed $100 of her $2500 tuition, and is now looking to start over with another school.
We also checked with the Better Business Bureau, and they say the Coeur D'Alene office of Sage Trucking School has received no customer reviews, and no complaints.