2020 Rising Stars: Drive509’s Jason Boudreau

Company founder drives growth curve with care

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When Jason Boudreau founded Drive509 truck driving school in 2016, he expected slow growth for the first few years.

“My business plan was: Hire one more instructor by year three and have one more truck,” Boudreau says.

This is year three, and Drive509 has seven full-time and three part-time instructors. The business also has 14 trucks and 16 trailers. Having started with only two students in the first few months of operations, Drive509 is now on pace to take more than 300 students annually through its 20-day commercial driver’s license course, at a cost of $3,400 each.

Boudreau’s philosophy has been to put the students first, ahead of funding and his own personality.

“When you stop counting the wrong things—money, whatever it is—and start counting the right things—people success, relationships—everything just comes to you.”

It’s a philosophy he shares with the Drive509 team.

“What I’ve instilled in my people is to put the students and the community first, because the way we train these people is essentially a safety (program) in our community.”

Boudreau, who turned 40 since being nominated as a Rising Star, says he believes in training students beyond licensing standards, such as Washington state’s requirement of 160 hours of truckdriver training.

“Employers are looking for a higher standard,” he says. “We train for you to get the job and for you to keep the job.”

The nation is facing a shortage of truck drivers as boomer-generation drivers are hitting retirement age. Boudreau, however, comes short of guaranteeing potential students a job, because that’s really up to the students.

“Can you guarantee you’ll show up every day? Can you guarantee that you’ll give the effort you need and we can put our name behind you?” he asks prospective students. “If you can do those things, someone will hire you.”

Boudreau contends drivers can make a good living starting in the Spokane area without having to be long-haul truckers, if that’s what they want.

While other truck driving schools operate in the area, including four schools in the Spokane area and two in North Idaho, Boudreau doesn’t see competition as an obstacle.

“Competitors are good because you can reflect on things you want to do better,” he says.

Drive509 has partnered with North Idaho College through a contract to train students signed up through the college.

“It takes NIC’s expenses for semis, instructors, and insurance down to zero,” he says. “They can still offer the program. All they’ve got to do is sign students up, and we take care of them.”

Tammy Everts, who helped Boudreau write the initial business plan when she worked as an adviser at the Washington Small Business Development Center, in Spokane, is now the office administrator at Drive509. She says she recognized early on that Boudreau was the type to “work on business, not in business,” meaning he’s always thinking about ways improve the company rather than being caught up in daily operations.

While the pandemic-induced shutdown in March generated a great challenge for the business, Boudreau developed ways to sign up students online and offer webinars before Drive509 was approved to reopen as an essential business in April, Everts says.

“We came out a lot better,” she says. “I think it’s because we quickly transitioned.”

For example, she claims, Drive509 now is the only CDL school in the state offering training in handling hazardous materials online.

The business is in leased space at 3730 E. Trent, which is already its third location.

Boudreau plans to move the school permanently, however, to a 4-acre site he purchased a year ago at 3620 N. Eden Road, in an industrial area in Spokane Valley. His plans call for the school to occupy a 5,000-square-foot building to be constructed there, and the lot will be big enough for students to practice moving trucks and semi-trailers.

“After this, we won’t have to move anymore, so it will be great,” he says.

Mike McLean
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Deputy Editor Mike McLean has worked his entire journalism career in the Inland Northwest. Mike, who also lives to reel in fish and crank up music, has worked for the Journal since 2006.

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