There’s been a shortage of commercial driver’s license (CDL) drivers since the turn of the 20th century.
“It’s the way of life,” according to John Cavy, regional operation’s manager of Schneider National Trucking, a Wisconsin-based company.
With 15,000 trucks on the road hauling everything from food, to freight, to hazardous material, Schneider is always looking for qualified drivers.
Currently, anyone can walk into the Motor Vehicle Administration and take commercial driver’s license (CDL) driving and written test with, or without, taking a class or finishing a CDL certified program.
That’s changing. Starting in February 2020, every person who wants a CDL has to be formally trained by an institution credited by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
The College of Southern Maryland (CSM) is ready to serve the needs of those who want a CDL, and the employers who need trained drivers.
“The College of Southern Maryland is ready and prepared to offer the new required training,” said Mary Beth McCollum senior director at CSM’s Center for Transportation Training. “And we are starting to hear from private and public sectors about setting our memorandums of understanding in order to keep a steady flow of certified drivers trained.”
CSM’s seven-week program provides 280 hours of training that begins in the classroom to prepare students for CDL learner’s permit. After class time, students move to the driving range where they begin to learn how to put the truck in motion. Students learn hand position, driving, backing, parking as well as how to perform under-the-hood vehicle inspections. Students must also master road rules, regulations and numerous safety issues of the road state-by-state, including human trafficking.
“I welcome the new standards,” said instructor Eric McCollum. “Anything that makes the industry better and safer is OK with me. This is not a case of creating ‘extra red tape.’ This is a case of making our truck drivers and our interstates safer.”
‘Not a bad living’
In October 2018, CSM hosted a two-day National Association of Publicly Funded Truck Driving Schools (NAPFTDS) Conference, bringing together trucking industry advocates, regulators, trainers and companies together. Maryland Motor Truck Association (MMTA) President Louis Campion told conference attendees that 71 percent of all freight tonnage is done by tractor trailer drivers. In Maryland alone, 112,900 truck drivers moved 88 percent of the manufactured freight to help pay more than $6 billion in wages.
“Truck drivers are the backbone of moving this country’s commerce,” Eric McCollum said. “And it’s not a bad living. Drivers who stay local can earn $42,000 a year; and those who drive across county – or ‘open road’ – can earn up to $60,000 a year.”
And employers are eager to recruit CSM students.
“We have at least 10 companies waiting on the sidelines of our classes looking for drivers and those companies are offering our students employment before they even complete the program,” Mary Beth McCollum said.
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