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More and more high schools are exploring truck driving programs as the industry seeks to recruit and train the next generation of drivers.
Patterson High School in Patterson, California is one of the first non-vocational high schools to offer a truck driving program. The course, a seniors elective, is offered in partnership with Morning Star Trucking to provide students with on-the-road training and potential employment opportunities.
Sixty other high schools across the country have expressed interest in starting their own programs, said Dave Dein, who leads the trucking program at Patterson.
“I’m amazed at what we’ve achieved,” he said.
Dein, an instructor in the school’s supply chain and logistics program, suggested the administration add a trucking program to the supply chain and logistics curriculum. Dein is also a co-founder of the Next Generation in Trucking Association, a non-profit organization that seeks to recruit young people into the industry.
The instructors provide insight into the entire trucking industry and the latest technology, Dein said. The course has been designed to the highest standards of the Professional Truck Driver Institute, according to the school’s course catalog, and students are required to complete 90 hours of instruction and 90 hours of hands-on activities.
Trucking is an aging industry, with the median age of drivers being 46 in 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The American Trucking Associations has warned that the industry will need to recruit nearly a million new drivers over the next decade to offset growing demand and a wave of retirements.
“The industry is raising wages to five times the historical average, but it’s not just about wages,” chief economist Bob Costello said in an October statement. “We have an aging workforce, a predominantly male workforce and finding ways to address these issues is key to reducing the shortage.”
More and more fleets have partnered with community colleges to grow their recruiting pool. At Pima Community College in Tucson, Ariz., recruiters visit CDL classrooms, talk to students and answer any questions they have, Missy Blair, advanced program manager for the school’s Center for Transportation Training, said in an e-mail. mail.
But convincing young people to join trucking takes some effort, said Robert Behnke, director of truck driving at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, Wisconsin. The school helps students connect with potential employers to help them find “the right fit”.
“It’s important to get the message across that great opportunities exist for many people of all ages in trucking,” Behnke said. “Trucking should no longer be stereotyped as a dirty career, never at home, all alone, but rather as a professional, diverse and rewarding career that we are all proud to be a part of.”
Still, it’s important for students to understand the full nature of the work, Dein said. Driving requires a lot of sitting, and Patterson’s course helps students learn how to stay fit while working in the industry. Guest lecturers also attend classes and students are regularly brought into contact with professional drivers.
“We want these young people to be prepared for the realities of trucking, including the potential health issues they face,” Dein said. “They get a foundation so they’re prepared and can make healthy lifestyle choices.”
Enrollment increases every year in Patterson, and Dein wants those same opportunities to be available in high schools across the country. He is working to raise $100,000 to professionally package Patterson’s curriculum to distribute free to other high schools.
“We want our high school-educated drivers to be the best and safest,” Dein said. “It’s a very exciting time for trucking.”