While trucking fleets are still in the early stages of learning how to operate under the FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program, and the extent and depth of the driver shortage is debated, there is at least one group that sees both of these developments as a positive.
Truck driver training programs, in particular programs that are certified by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI), are expecting CSA and the driver shortage to be a boon to enrollment.
“I see the predicted driver shortage as a positive for truck driver training programs associated with PTDI,” said David Wehman, system program coordinator at Baker College of Flint, one of four programs that have recently been recertified by PTDI.
“As companies demand more quality in their entry-level positions and as existing drivers with a high PSP score are weeded out of this industry, training programs that insist on putting a professional driver on the road should see an increase in enrollment," Wehman added. "And as insurance companies demand quality drivers, companies are demanding more from their drivers as well.”
The other programs to receive the five-year certification are All-State Career, Baltimore; Lehigh Career & Technical Institute, Schnecksville, Pennsylvania; and Swift Driving Academy, Lewiston, Idaho.
With unemployment remaining above 9% nationally, and an economy that is growing much slower than expected resulting in much tighter capacity, the driver shortage may not turn out to be as bad as previously predicted. But CSA is having its effects on drivers as companies tighten driving requirements – and make a push to force out more of the poorer performing operators. The result is a glut of people considering jobs as truck drivers and plenty of companies looking to solidify their ranks with skilled drivers.
“Our truck driving program has always been our backbone,” said Larry Fishman, campus president at All-State Career. “But it’s been interesting how in the last 18 months, employers are banging on our doors. One guy came looking for 70 drivers; it creates a buzz in the student body to see these employers coming in wanting to hire.”
“With Compliance, Safety, Accountability regulations out there and insurance company requirements, it means carriers can’t lessen their criteria. If anything, they will have to be more stringent in whom they hire,” said Randy Zimmerman, coordinator of training at Lehigh Career and Technical Institute.
Experts also expect the current unemployment rate to drive people to consider truck driving as a new career.
“With the current economy, trucking is the best option,” said Loary Roberts, academy director at Swift Driving Academy. “There may be other options out there, but our students say they get to travel, see the country, deal with different people, and they earn a good wage.”
And, Roberts adds, proper training can aid in driver retention.
“All we do is preach safety, for our drivers to be safe when they go out on the road, and I think the better our drivers are trained, the more they will stay with a company,” Roberts said.
But even as training programs see increases in both students and carriers interested in their services, students should be cautious when choosing a center to train at. PTDI is a national, nonprofit organization that helps develop uniform standards for training. Not all schools are PTDI certified, and while many of those may do a wonderful job, there is a level of security that comes with a certificate from a PTDI-certified school.
“One of our competitors is a stone’s throw from us, but we have two things that set our program apart from that college’s program: We do one-to-one driver training here and we have PTDI certification. That solidifies people’s decisions to choose us,” said Zimmerman.