Road Master, a truck driving training school, is seeing plenty of interest since opening a training facility in Bessemer four months ago.
“We’ve got more students trying to get in the school then we can currently put in school" said the school's president Brad Ball.
The Bessemer location is one of 20 that are operating across the nation with more to come.
The supply chain and driver shortage is driving up the demand for more training facilities.
Ball said “we’ve doubled the size of our company over the last couple of years just for that reason. the trucking companies just aren’t getting enough drivers. We’ve got a shortage of 80,000 drivers. That’s up from 60,000 just two years ago before COVID.”
The American Trucking Associations estimates the U.S. was down 80,000 skilled drivers during the pandemic.
Ball said “trucking companies can’t hire enough students in the area where we open schools and that’s why we go there.”
He said, so far, just over a dozen drivers have graduated and all with job offers in hand.
For the time being, they’re only taking in four students per week.
The Bessemer school aims to graduate 500 drivers annually.
Ball said “I don’t know of another educational opportunity that does what trucking does. People have the opportunity to, in about a month of training, come out of school with job offers in hand making $50,000 $60,000 even $70,000 dollars in their first year.”
Mark Colson is President and CEO of the Alabama Trucking Association.
He said there are 15 public and a handful of private truck driving schools, like Road Master, in Alabama.
He said more schools help get more drivers trained but training times and getting drivers licensed can be timely.
He said “once they get the training they need they can take that test, get their license and get on the road.”
He said he is optimist about the future even as many skilled drivers retired during the pandemic.
Colson said companies are loosening their hiring requirements on hiring entry level drivers.
He said companies are also stepping up and offering better incentives and pay.
He said the average starting pay is at an all-time high.
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Professional Alabama truckers can start out earning, on average, a $50,000 salary.
Getting drivers trained can take four to eight weeks with likely on the job training.
Colson told us safety is never compromised.
"There are no overnight fixes. There are no silver bullets. It’s a long term approach and persistence is key to making sure that you’re telling your story of what job opportunities are available and then making it as easy as possible, demystifying the experience for someone to go get that training and get into a job"
He said one of the main challenges they face right now is the perception of the industry.
Alabama Trucking Association launched Careers in High Gear last year to highlight stories of the men and women who work in the trucking industry and provide information on how to get training.
Colson said the campaign has helped increase interest in the trucking industry.
He said there are 110,000 people already working in the trucking industry in Alabama and 86% of goods brought to Alabama communities arrive on a truck.