Labor shortage spurs training for truck drivers
Twenty-year-old Samuel Bettendorf was working in a dead-end job before he began attending commercial driver’s license (CDL) classes at Lord Fairfax Community College. “I saw there was a great need for tractor-trailer drivers,” says the Warren County native.
Nationally, there is a shortage of more than 50,000 truck drivers for local, regional and over-the-road positions. “Over 800 jobs were posted in the last 90 days regionally for CDL truck drivers,” says Chris Pender, vice president of Woodford-based CDS Tractor Trailer Training.
In part, the shortage has been caused by a wave of retirements by baby boomer truckers. “It’s also due to the way commerce is spread out,” Pender says. With the demise of many brick-and-mortar retailers, demand for truck drivers is rising. With online shopping, “everything is being delivered to your door,” he notes.
First-year drivers can make $45,000 to $60,000 a year. “We have had a number of folks that came through eight years ago, and now they employ five to six people,” Pender says.
“There’s a big push for women in trucking now,” he adds. “Women make up 15 or more percent of the industry.”
Lord Fairfax is one of 10 community colleges throughout Virginia that partners with CDS on CDL classes. “We are expanding our program at Lord Fairfax.
We are doing a travel program for Warrenton and Fauquier County where we will go there and train students onsite,” says Pender.
Lord Fairfax and CDS began offering the CDL class 2½ years ago. Since then more than 550 students have taken the class, and 494 have earned their CDLs.
Students receive 160 hours of instruction — either in a full-time, 20-day program or a part-time program that runs for 10 weekends. “Once they complete the course, they have a Class A CDL that allows them to drive Class A or Class B vehicles, everything from dump trucks to tractor-trailers,” Pender says. “It makes them more employable.”
CDS helps students with job placement. “The majority of students are prehired before they complete the program,” Pender says.
In January, Lord Fairfax received a new three-screen, tractor-trailer simulator that can imitate driving conditions ranging from inclement weather to road hazards. “It has everything a real truck has,” Pender says. “A lot of people see the truck, and they are overwhelmed. This puts them in a comfortable position where they are able to simulate the driving experience without the pressure of being on the road.”