GREENSBORO, N.C. — When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the shelves and roads were emptied, it became more apparent than ever that tractor-trailer operators are essential. That said, there is a large and growing lack of them across the country and in the state of North Carolina. One local university is now taking steps to cut into that void.
“There’s an old saying, if you bought it, a truck brought it,” says Van Staley, director of the Truck Driver Training Program at Guilford Technical Community College.
GTCC says its Truck Driver Training curriculum was created “in an effort to help local industry address a shortage of tractor-trailer drivers.”
The program’s first group of students started classes in October 2020.
“I’ve been a chef for about 40 years, and I always wanted to drive a truck and my industry is not doing that well,” says Troy Singley, who graduated from the course in December.
Singley and his fellow students completed a 320-hour course with 22 percent of their course work in the classroom and the remaining time spent on the driving range or on the road.
“I’ve always been fascinated by big rigs,” says graduate Memphis Marshall. “I did my senior project on why CDL schools should be in high schools for graduating seniors.”
The U.S. Department of Labor predicts the demand for heavy-duty truckers in the state will increase by 7.7 percent over the next five years, with about 7,000 job openings every year.
“Once you figure out, and get your driving style, and find out what truck works for you, everything just kind of comes into place on its own,” Marshall says.
Staley says the driver shortage is projected to continue until at least 2028.
“The course itself is not easy,” he adds. “It’s that way by design because the trucking industry is not an easy profession.”
Staley says about 90 percent of truck driving students get a job in the field straight out of school, but much of that depends on previous driving records.
“I was the youngest in this class, I’d like to get a lot of younger people to get into the trucking industry,” Marshall says. “I’m out here just to prove younger people can do it.”
Glassdoor.com says the national average salary for truck drivers is $58,077 a year.