WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (WFLA) – A new program at a Polk County truck driving school aims to quell a growing shortage in drivers.
The problem is heightened amid supply chain and worker shortages this holiday season.
“Hopefully as busy as I can get. That’s what I’m in it for is the hours and staying busy,” said Rory Holmes, a student at FleetForce Truck Driving School.
Holmes paid $6,250 for the four-week training program to get his commercial driver’s license.
“I just saw it on the news a lot about the trucker shortage and everything that’s going on so I figured obviously it’s in demand,” he said.
This week, the school has increased its incentives to get more drivers behind the wheel.
New truckers-in-training do not have to pay for their tuition. Their future employers will.
“They know before they even arrive at FleetForce who they’ll be working for. They’ll get free training and then guaranteed employment on the other side of their license,” said Tra Williams, FleetForce Truck Driving School owner.
Some are also offering sign-on bonuses and paying students while they are in school.
It’s because the industry needs tens of thousands of new drivers.
“The American Trucking Association estimates that America as a whole needs 1.1 million drivers over the next ten years,” said Williams.
Right now, the nationwide need is at least 80,000 drivers. Williams says the need has been growing as 1,200 truck drivers retire every day.
“The only reason everyone knows about this now is they went to Publix last March and couldn’t find toilet paper. So now the pandemic has really exacerbated what was an underlying problem,” he said.
Making training less cost-prohibitive and more enticing is a way to attract younger drivers.
“Getting these 18-20-year-olds on the road earlier and being able to recruit from high school because currently we really lose that entire demographic,” said Alix Miller, president & CEO of the Florida Trucking Association.
According to Williams, 20 percent of the new students this year were female, which met the goal for the year.
Women have become sought-after workers for trucking companies.
“[Women] cause fewer accidents, are cheaper to insure and they pass their exams at a higher rate on their first exams than males do at FleetForce,” he said.
As part of this program, FleetForce will conduct the pre-hire screening to make sure new drivers meet the necessary criteria to get a job.
There are two FleetForce locations: 4950 Recker Highway in Winter Haven and 5840 26th Street W in Bradenton at the State College of Florida Campus.
To learn more about the program, visit DriveFleetForce.com or call (863) 294-1112.