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Local trucking program gets a monetary boost: A peek into an industry making headlines

WTAP News @ 11-Trucker Scholarship Grant
Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 10:10 PM EDT
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MARIETTA, Ohio. (WTAP) - The Ohio Department of Higher Education is dispersing $2.5 million in grants across 30 schools in order to stimulate the trucking industry. Washington County Career Center is one of those schools.

Students training for their commercial driver’s license at the center now have the opportunity to get their education paid for.

One student of the program, Andrew Esigg, said he hadn’t ever driven a big truck before joining the program.

“..., you go from not knowing what you’re doing to doing all the maneuvers on the field, being able to drive with pretty much ease. You’re not worried about it anymore.”

The grant money will function as a kind of loan scholarship. It’s for Ohio residents who go through one of the Career Center’s commercial driver’s license programs. If a graduate commits to an Ohio company for a year, the loan, which pays for the entire training program, will be forgiven.

“That’s our goal...to put safer drivers on the road,” Gene Bartlett, a training manager for the program, said.

Trucking’s an essential industry in which 70 hour work weeks are the norm. That’s according to Jacob Fletcher. He works as a trucker and driver trainer for Knight Transportation, a company based out of Columbus.

The industry’s drawn headlines for an alleged staffing shortage but whether there’s actually a shortage has been contested.

“‘Trucker shortage’ is a term that lately has been thrown around a lot and I wouldn’t even say a trucker shortage, it’s…a highly revolving career,” Fletcher said.

There are multiple theories on the story behind the industry’s high turnover rate.

“There isn’t a trucking company out there that isn’t constantly looking for a driver,” Fletcher pointed out.

While trucking staffing may seem like a sudden challenge brought forth by the pandemic, Fletcher said it’s been like this for years.

He said truckers got behind schedule during the pandemic, not because of a major staffing shortage, but because of the breakdown of the supply chain. It caused long waits for truckers working with short-staffed facilities.

Fletcher said, “..., there were times I would sit for days with one load and those days where I was sitting with one load were days I could’ve been delivering other loads but I couldn’t deliver those other loads.”

Still, the truckers keep trucking, providing an invaluable service.

If you’re interested in Washington County Career Center’s program, you can call the center’s front desk or reach Bartlett at 740-591-1510.

There are two versions of their commercial driver’s license program - one that runs on week days for four weeks and one that runs for eight weekends. Each program is 160 hours worth of training.

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