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Oakdale driving school takes to Central Valley roads
Opening up the Oakdale Driving School, business owners Gillian and Andrew Smith are ready to service the Oakdale area and beyond, the husband-and-wife team offering required behind the wheel driving lessons as people prepare to test for their license. Photo By Teresa Hammond

Teen drivers and their families searching for behind the wheel training, need worry no more. Thanks to the vision as well as drive of Andrew Smith and his wife, Gillian, Oakdale Driving School is on the road and ready to service the Oakdale area and beyond.

The primary face of the business, Smith shared he and his wife first relocated to Oakdale in 2019. Moving from the Bay Area and leaving a longtime career in the food service business, Smith found himself behind the wheel of a big rig as a fuel delivery driver.

“It’s a great job, I have nothing against it,” he said of truck driving. However, Smith shared he wasn’t feeling personally fulfilled.

“Coming from cooking and being in lots of camaraderie and lots of people, it just wasn’t the same,” he said.

Turning to some friends who own a driving school in Woodland, Smith began picking their brains and talking about the opportunity of owning his own driving school. The more the couple consulted with their friends, the more they saw not only the need but the opportunity for a business which would serve their family as well as the community.

“It’s been really, really great,” Smith said of starting the business, sharing that he has a patient and easygoing personality which partners well with the business.

While the business name is Oakdale Driving School the husband/wife team emphasized the driving school is open to students in Escalon, Riverbank, Modesto and surrounding areas.

“The best way to book an appointment is to go to the website, It’s really simple,” Smith said of scheduling behind the wheel lessons.

Potential clients may also call or text Smith at 209-919-4200.

“If you go to ‘Book now’ and hit ‘Paid in Full’ you can see all the times available,” he said.

With behind the wheel services sparse and time opportunities hard to come by, the Smith family are hopeful that the addition of their driving school will remove some of the stress for Central Valley students and their families.

Clients are able to pay per drive or for the required three behind the wheel classes at the same time. Each behind the wheel instruction is two hours in length at a time, per DMV guidelines for obtaining a license.

“In fact, their permit isn’t technically active or legal until they do their first two-hour session with us,” Smith said. “So they can do that two-hour session and then go drive with their parents.”

Students and families just getting started must have the drivers permit before booking classes with Oakdale Driving School. Smith recommends beginning their on-line 25-hour course requirement two months before they turn 15-and-a-half, followed by taking the permit test and then enroll for behind the wheel training.

“The benefit to being out in Oakdale is most of these kids are out cruising around the country roads or their properties, so they all have a little bit of experience. Which is really helpful to us,” he shared.

As for the transition from big rig to spending his days with teen drivers, Smith loves it.

“Probably just the simple stuff,” he said of what’s most gratifying. Describing teaching the students, demonstrating the drive and seeing them succeed as “the best” part.

“Just seeing them succeed in something they’re not quite understanding,” he continued of the rewarding aspects of his new career and business. “Those little things. Like teaching them how to properly look over their shoulder.”

And while business is going well, the husband/wife team shared it is the support of the community which has not only been helpful but appreciated.

“I just want to note how great the Mayor, Cherilyn Bairos has been and Councilwoman Kaleigh Gilbert. They’ve both been really great and supportive with us in the community,” noted Smith. “We really can’t thank everyone enough.”