Growing demand for driving school leads to expansion
HAVING grown up in the foster system, it was by chance that David Cullen found his home in Ipswich.
A twist of fate also steered Mr Cullen towards educating the next generation of drivers.
In 2008, he was in an accident while behind the wheel of a B-double in Gladstone after being overtaken by a car on double lines.
Mr Cullen's truck ended up on its side.
"I went for a ride you'd never went to repeat," Mr Cullen said.
"About three months after that the company I was working for went broke owing me about $140,000. So we were on the bones of our proverbial and basically I had no truck for (his car carrying business).
"I stuck my nose into the driving school and got stuck into that and it's just grown from there. We didn't have cars at that stage. We put a couple of cars on and started building it."
It was from these modest beginnings that the long time interstate truck driver launched his now successful driving school business, which is about to expand into Brisbane and the Gold Coast due to popular demand.
Mr Cullen started Pro Drive Driving School in 2004 with a couple of trucks and a trailer.
He continued to operate Ipswich Car Carriers alongside the driving school before it was sold in 2017.
With a new Mack and new Kenworth just recently rolling in, today the business has about 27 cars and 10 trucks. The Pro Drive team now includes 40 people, including staff and contractors.
The business is expanding its foot print further into Brisbane and the Gold Coast due to growing demand for its services.
Pro Drive's test success rate of 87 per cent sits well above the state average of about 60 per cent.
Truck lessons are already offered in Wacol and the outer suburbs of Brisbane but the business will grow into new territory while still based in Ipswich.
Mr Cullen said his accident cemented his view that driver training was vital.
"What we're doing is life and death," he said.
"If we don't do the right thing with these kids to start with, they could go somewhere and kill someone.
"We do constant training with our instructors and assessments on how they're going. A lot of schools don't do that. "We've got a network of good instructors that are able to bounce off of each other.
"We're on top of what's going on locally, what's going on anywhere and everywhere because of the number of (contacts the business has).
"We've got a couple of people that have been working for other schools down the coast that used to work for us, who now work for other schools. They want to do what we're doing."
Mr Cullen has lobbied to get driving school test rates published publicly in order to give people more information so they canto select the best person to instruct them.
Since it started, an integral part of the business has been about giving back to the community.
Pro Drive has supported a very long list of sporting clubs, local events and community groups over the years, as well as supplying vehicles and equipment to other businesses when they were down on their luck.
Although he said some days it was a struggle to hand out sponsorships after expenses, Mr Cullen said it was essential.
"I was homeless for a while," he said.
"I ended up in a home out here in Ipswich on Warwick Road.
"I feel it's important to give back to the community. I do that so hopefully some of these kids can avoid going through the same thing I did.
"I give back to the community that gave to me. I don't need to be rich and wealthy, and I'm not, but I like to be able to give as much back to the community as I can.
"I'd like to give more but I can't. It's even a bit tough sometimes giving away what we do.
"Communities never forget who stands beside them when they need it."