Island solution

M.S. Carriers hiring drivers recruited from Puerto RicoEven before this page was written, we could see the flood of e-mailed and posted letters it will no doubt generate. No surprise there. That's what happens whenever we pass along radical ideas for alleviating the driver shortage.So be it. At the risk of being called naive yet another hundred times, herewith your faithful reporter serves up the

M.S. Carriers hiring drivers recruited from Puerto Rico

Even before this page was written, we could see the flood of e-mailed and posted letters it will no doubt generate. No surprise there. That's what happens whenever we pass along radical ideas for alleviating the driver shortage.

So be it. At the risk of being called naive yet another hundred times, herewith your faithful reporter serves up the latest from the driver-recruitment front.

Perhaps inspired by John Donne's 400-year-old poem, "No Man Is an Island," a group composed of Puerto Rican government officials and U.S fleet owners have come up with their own farsighted but common-sense approach to alleviating the driver crunch.

A few simple facts drove the idea. Number one, there's a driver shortage in the continental U.S. Number two, there are bilingual (Spanish/English speaking) residents of Puerto Rico who ache for good-paying jobs, such as driving a truck in the Lower 48. Number three, as citizens of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, these job seekers also enjoy United States citizenship - hence, no immigration issues to deal with in hiring them here.

The driver recruitment/training program was officially launched late last year by World-Wide Solutions Inc., a Puerto Rico-based consulting firm. World-Wide was formed via a strategic alliance between the government of Puerto Rico, the mayor of Mayaguez, P.R., and American partners, including Memphis-based M.S. Carriers.

At presstime, World-Wide was due to send the first group - numbering over 20 - of qualified truck drivers from the island to report for work at M.S. Carriers. These successful placements represent the vanguard of the 2,000 North American truck-driving jobs World-Wide hopes to generate each year for residents of Puerto Rico.

What in a sense amounts to bringing drivers from one part of a country to another that needs them is a bit more complicated than it sounds.

World-Wide gets the ball rolling by recruiting candidates for its Puerto Rico-based driving school, dubbed the Trucking Institute. Once their training is completed, the school refers the newly minted drivers to Quality Driver Source, an operation which leases them to truck fleets throughout the U.S. as well as in Canada.

According to Larry LeGrand, co-founder and CEO of World-Wide, over 900 island residents have already responded to the recruiting efforts of the Trucking Institute.

As a partner in the program, M.S. Carriers has actually agreed to provide on-location training and employment for the first 1,000 drivers to go through the World-Wide program.

Once stateside, the new drivers will be required to re-certify their CDLs. They are also subject to a battery of tests, including a physical and drug screening, as well as background checks.

"The trucking industry currently experiences driver turnover of more than 90%," points out Mike Reaves, senior vp-driver services for M.S. Carriers. "We are proud to play a key role in beginning to resolve the industry's problems, and we are excited to welcome this first group of drivers and to get the program rolling."

As for the view from the island, Xavier Romeu, Puerto Rico's Sec. of Economic Development & Commerce, calls the World-Wide partnership "a breakthrough for both the trucking industry and Puerto Rico, resulting in more than 2,000 jobs and nearly $66 million annually for the Puerto Rican economy."

What can we add? Nothing. Except to say, Welcome aboard!

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