Albany Tech trains truck drivers to fill national shortage

Albany Tech trains truck drivers to fill national shortage
Updated: Jul. 26, 2018 at 4:54 PM EDT
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ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Top manufacturing and business leaders across South Georgia are spreading the word that truck drivers are in urgent demand.

Industries of all types are recruiting young people to become truck drivers because the jobs are there waiting.

Now colleges are teaching courses to help students get their CDL and take the wheel in a good job.

Denise Johnson, 23, will soon be graduating as one of the top grading students in Albany Technical College's Truck Driving Program. And she is ready to hit the road.

"I wanted to try something different," said Johnson. "And I wanted to get the experience of actually leaving the state of Georgia."

The trucking industry will move more than 10 billion tons of freight this year, with huge growth expected. The only issue holding that growth back is a lack of drivers.

"Actually, American Trucking Association puts the statistics at a need for 500,000 more truckers within the next decade," said Southern Ag Carriers Safety Director Curtis Echols III.

At the urging of South Georgia businesses, Albany Technical College is pushing truck driving as an employment training program.

"We offer an eight-week program," said Albany Technical College Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Emmett Griswold. "So students can come in and get eight weeks of training. And after the eight weeks, be employed."

And you don't have to be highly skilled to start.

"I never knew how to drive a stick," said Johnson laughing. "But now I can drive one because it's a standard shift with trucks."

Johnson decided she wanted to become a truck driver after watching and riding with her aunt, a 20-year veteran trucker. So she knew women could handle a truck as well as a man.

"No, it's not hard at all," said Johnson. "If it's something you really want to do, it's not hard.

The eight weeks of training includes 200 hours behind the wheel.

"We also focus in on driving on the road," said Albany Technical College Commercial Truck Driving Chair Nathan Childs. "To get them familiar as to how to handle themselves around vehicles in different types of situations, within the city, highway and rural areas."

And truck companies in need of drivers are helping recruit commercial driving students to college programs, promising highly paid jobs.

"A strong company like Southern Ag, that's growing," said Echols.  "Our desire for well respected, professional drivers with good experience. And a nice driving record, you know that's just growing exponentially. So we welcome everyone."

Johnson has already met with trucking company recruiters.

"Yes sir, I actually have a lot of choices," said Johnson. "I'm not just limited to one or two. So I actually get to look over multiple choices."

Johnson is also an Albany State University student, who will drive full time and continue toward her college degree online. For her, the road is wide open with opportunity, as she gets ready to take the wheel.

"I'm real excited," said Johnson. "I can't wait."

Southern Ag recruiters tell people that professional truck drivers have a tangible skill, in need, with solid income potential.

Albany Tech officials said most students should begin earning between $30,000 to 50,000 a year after training.

The program now has eight training trucks worth more than $500,000 and expect the fall class to double in number over its current class.

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