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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. – A shortage of truck drivers across the United States is leaving some shelves empty and some goods more difficult to find.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, North Carolina will need 7,000 truck drivers by 2026 to keep up with demand. The truck driving training program at Guilford Technical Community College in Greensboro helps to fulfill that need one driver at a time. 

“There’s a bigger shortage and a higher demand because right now everything moves in a truck one way or the other,” said Anthony Donaldson, a truck driving instructor at GTCC. 

More than 60 students from 18 years old to over 60 years old have graduated with a job since the start of the program in October 2020. Each student must complete a 320-hour course, which is mostly practical training on the driving range or on the road. 

Students learn about vehicle inspection, defensive driving, range maneuvers, motor carrier’s safety regulations, trip planning, cargo handling, size and weight laws, general maintenance procedures, hours of services and vehicle accident prevention.

“It’s not just jumping behind the wheel and taking off,” said Melody Mason, a student in the program. “Truck drivers are helping end some of the shortages of this pandemic, and I’m excited to be part of that.” 

Donaldson spent more than 20 years transporting goods and in a management role. He told FOX8 it’s a tough job that includes long hours, paperwork and spending time away from family. It’s necessary to get items to businesses in a timely manner.  

“Your shoes, your clothes, your food, your toys, your video games, everything has been touched by a truck,” Donaldson said. 

The shortage is caused by several factors like more truckers retiring than new ones willing to put in the work. Donaldson said a bad driving or criminal record stops some people from hitting the road. 

Negative experiences while on the clock don’t help either.

“A lot of times, it comes from drivers not respecting each other,” Donaldson said. “I’ve seen fatalities. I’ve seen drivers just show blatant disrespect towards one another, and that’s why a lot of them get out.” 

Businesses are paying more and offering greater incentives to fill the openings. Salary estimates for entry level truck drivers show some could make more than $60,000 a year. 

“I grew up the youngest of nine kids,” Donaldson said. “So grew up very poor, and trucking has taken me out of my poverty, and it can take someone else as well.” 

Mason told FOX8 she already has received job offers halfway through the eight week long program. “I’ve had 8 [job offers] that I’m considering, but there’s more than that,” she said.  

Mason and her 17 other classmates will receive a Class A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) after completing the course. 

“This is outside the wheelhouse of anything I thought I would ever do,” she said. “When I decided to try it, I absolutely feel in love with it.” 

Donaldson said more affordable training programs like at GTCC would help address the shortage of truck drivers.