How a high school is attracting people to trucking industry

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(NewsNation) — America is facing a major shortage of truck drivers. There are 80,000 such drivers needed right now, and that number is expected to grow to 130,000 by 2030, according to the American Trucking Association.

That shortage is making driver education programs such as the one at Patterson High School in California all the more important to filling the need for truck drivers on America’s highways, which would curb supply chain issues sparked by the shortage.

Dave Dein, Patterson High School Truck Driving School instructor, believes driver education programs like his in America’s high schools, which train 18-year-olds for a life on the road, will help.

“We’re a very innovative program,” Dein said. “We’re not just about filling seats … our focus is on safety, No. 1. We portray the industry in a very realistic way. We want our students to know how much liability, how much personal responsibility comes with driving a truck.”

Word of mouth advertising has been the biggest draw to Dein’s program, he says, as successful students leave the program and tell friends and relatives about it.

Recruitment is vital in trucking right now as the industry is currently dealing with an 89% turnover rate and an aging driver population.

“I think a lot of people are leaving because they are just aging out,” Dein said, noting that “25% of our current population of drivers are at retirement age … and we just haven’t had a lot of new people that want to go into this industry.”

High school students will not be behind the wheel of a truck from day one, Dein noted. Lots of training is required first.

New federal requirements implement entry level driver training standards, which they must meet with 80% proficiency to get a commercial driver’s license. Once that standard is met, a written test is then required where, if passed, a permit is awarded to the applicant. Then, behind-the-wheel training starts.

Students must complete 110 hours of classroom work, 30 hours on a driving simulator and 110 hours of behind-the-wheel training.

“Our program is just classroom instruction only,” Dein said. “We are not doing the behind-the-wheel training that is done through our adult education program and we use adult education funding to contract that through a private truck driving school.”

Pay for truck drivers has been increasing steadily since 2012 and now sits at an average salary of $50,340, up from $40,360 a decade ago. But money isn’t everything in the trucking business.

“I am very up front because the media is definitely talking about the money and how much money you can make driving a truck,” Dein said. “I caution all my students: Don’t do this for the money. Trucking is a lifestyle and it’s something you should be very passionate about. The money will definitely follow you.”

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