WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (WFLA) – A new program at a Polk County truck driving school aims to quell a growing driver shortage.
The problem is compounded amid supply chain and worker shortages this holiday season.
“I hope as busy as possible. That’s what I’m in there for, it’s the hours and keeping busy,” said Rory Holmes, a student at FleetForce Truck Driving School.
Holmes paid $ 6,250 for the four-week training program to obtain his commercial driver’s license.
“I just saw it on the news a lot about the trucker shortage and everything that is going on, so I thought it was obviously in demand,” he said.
This week, the school increased its incentives to get more drivers behind the wheel.
New truck drivers in training do not have to pay their tuition fees. Their future employers will.
“They know before they even get to FleetForce who they’re going to work for. They will get free training and guaranteed employment on the other side of their license, ”said Tra Williams, owner of FleetForce Truck Driving School.
Some also offer enrollment bonuses and pay students while they are in school.
This is because the industry needs tens of thousands of new pilots.
“The American Trucking Association estimates that America as a whole needs 1.1 million drivers over the next ten years,” Williams said.
At present, the national need is at least 80,000 drivers. Williams says the need has increased as 1,200 truck drivers retire every day.
“The only reason everyone knows this now is that 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 cheaper and more attractive is one way to attract young drivers.
“Put those 18-20 year olds on the road sooner and be able to recruit from high school because right now we’re really losing this whole demographic,” said Alix Miller, president and CEO of the Florida Trucking Association.
According to Williams, 20 percent of new students this year were female, which hit the target 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 the men at FleetForce, ”he said.
As part of this program, FleetForce will conduct pre-employment screening to ensure new drivers meet the necessary criteria for employment.
There are two FleetForce locations: 4950 Recker Highway in Winter Haven and 5840 26th Street W in Bradenton on the State College of Florida campus.
To learn more about the program, visit DriveFleetForce.com or call (863) 294-1112.