Truck drivers needed: job fair to offer opportunities
Apr 3, 2022
TribLIVE's Daily and Weekly email newsletters deliver the news you want and information you need, right to your inbox. Edward Roberts recalls how a trucking company offered a student — who had left his minimum wage job to obtain a commercial driver’s license in his driver training school in New Stanton — a shot at a $90,000-a-year job. He would just need to take long-distance routes that would require him to be away from home for two or three days a week. Although the student turned down the job that would have kept him from returning home every night, Roberts, program director for Sage Truck Driving School, said it is just one example of how trucking companies are looking to hire students who earn their CDL. “We get five calls a week from trucking firms, plus the regular recruiters wanting to hire the students,” said Roberts, whose school operates out of the Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center. It’s no wonder because Pennsylvania’s trucking firms have between 3,600 and 4,000 vacancies for drivers with CDLs, said Rebecca Oyler, president of the Pennsylvania Motor Trucking Association, a trade organization based in Camp Hill. Part of the reason for the vacancies — an estimated 80,000 nationally — is the same lingering issue for other employers: the ramifications of the covid pandemic during the past two years, Oyler said. “We lost a lot (of drivers) during the pandemic, and we’re not replacing them fast enough,” Oyler said. The need for drivers has impacted trucking firms seeking to hire drivers with CDLs, as well as school bus transportation and public transit authorities. The deficit in the number of drivers needed to fill the vacancies is one of the reasons for the breakdown in the nation’s supply chain, Oyler said. The Westmoreland County Transit Authority last month announced it had to cut back on service because one of every five driver positions is unfilled. That has been an ongoing problem since the beginning of the covid pandemic. That need for drivers is great for places such as Sage Truck Driving School and Rosedale Technical College in Kennedy Township. “There’s been a tremendous increase in interest in the (CDL) classes. We barely had enough people for a class last year, and now they are filling up” for a three-week training course, Roberts said. The class sizes are small because of the need for instructors to monitor student drivers. Roberts said they typically have no more than 13 students per class in the three-week training session. Rosedale Technical College has seen enrollment rise in its CDL driving school, as 46 people have enrolled in the 10-week training course so far this school year, compared to 55 for all of the previous academic year, said Kimberly Bell, director of student enrollment and outreach. Not only are trucking firms drawn to the CDL classes to connect with future graduates, but they are beginning to partner with the colleges to offer tuition assistance for students, Bell said. To address the regional need for more commercial drivers, the Westmoreland-Fayette Workforce Investment Board and the Private Industry Council of Westmoreland/Fayette, Inc. is sponsoring what it calls a Transportation Career Convention from 9 a.m. to noon April 13 at the PA CareerLink office at 151 Pavilion Lane, at the Westmoreland County Community College near Youngwood. There will be a discussion on the state of the transportation industry at 10 a.m. and opportunities for drivers and prospective drivers to discuss driving jobs with employers. “The employers are driving this discussion,” said Nick Falcone, strategic initiative specialist for the workforce investment board. It is an effort to get the next generation of truck drivers interested in the job, which is considered by the state to be a high-priority occupation, Falcone said. To help put the younger generation in position to earn their CDLs, Falcone said that the workforce investment board has funding to assist students with their tuition and can provide matching funds with an employer. That next generation is needed behind the wheel because the average age among truckers in Pennsylvania with a CDL is 50, Oyler said. It’s why the organization is working with career and technology centers across the state to get high school students interested in a career that pays drivers an average wage of $52,830, Oyler said. “We’ve got to attract the youth. We need to build the pipeline better,” Oyler said. Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, email@example.com or via Twitter . Support Local Journalism and help us continue covering the stories that matter to you and your community.