There are approximately 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the United States, according to estimates by the American Trucking Association (ATA). The total number of people employed in the industry, including those in positions that do not entail driving, exceeds 8.7 million. About one of every 15 workers in the country is employed in the trucking business, according to the ATA. These figures indicate that trucking is an exceptionally stable industry that is likely to continue generating jobs in the coming years.
Employment figures underscore the rationale behind the state grants available for those seeking short-term training in Ohio’s public two-year colleges. The workforce demand is high, as is enrollment in programs where students can earn a Commercial Driver License (CDL) in just four weeks (eight weeks in a weekend-based program). With the cost for training running about $5,000, many see a fresh career start well within reach.
Southern State Community College offers CDL training through its truck driving academy in seven locations across Ohio. Its training facility in Wilmington is just across the street from Sewell Motor Express, a family-owned trucking company that welcomes new drivers with a sign adjacent to Southern State’s training pad.
“We believe the key to our long-term company success is a good work-life balance for our employees,” said Jay Sewell, the third generation president of the company. “We attract the best drivers by focusing on shorter runs that allow our employees to get home sooner to their friends and family.”
John Smith is the director of Southern State’s Truck Driving Academy. Smith turned to teaching about five years ago, after 31 years as a driver, and he’s proud of his career and the opportunities a CDL can provide. Southern State trains about 240 students each year.
“With the huge number of baby boomers retiring these days, there are many, many opportunities opening up for professional drivers,” Smith said. “In just four weeks, a student can earn their CDL and begin a career they can depend on to take care of their family. There are plenty of opportunities for folks who take pride in the independence this career can provide.”
During a recent visit to the Wilmington training facility, four students, all military veterans, were completing their first week of classes. “After the military, I worked a number of years in retail sales, which was often very demanding, competitive, and repetitive. I was ready to do something that offers more flexibility and higher earnings,” said Peter Weinbacher of Cincinnati.
Ohio has an excellent variety of trucking and diesel technology programs to help students get started in this field. Today, there are 34 schools in Ohio offering such programs, including many at public two-year colleges and adult training centers.