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Schools Receiving PTDI Course Recertification Address Need for Younger Drivers
Despite 98-percent graduation rates, driver training programs that recently received the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) course recertification expressed concern about filling the growing demand for drivers. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) projects a driver shortage increase to 200,000 by 2020, and the industry is already struggling to attract and retain new and younger drivers.
Mark Brown, director of Central Tech Transportation and Safety Education, in Drumright, Oklahoma—one of three schools that received PTDI course recertification in December—noted seeing more second- and third-career people entering the program, along with more husband and wife teams and single mothers. “Our average student age is 41,” Brown said, adding that the industry needs to be more attractive for younger drivers.
"I think we have to make it so that these young people can stay home a couple of days a week,” Brown said. “In the old days, guys would be gone three or four weeks at a time. That’s not acceptable anymore.”
Tracy Younger, program chair at the College of Western Idaho Professional Truck Driving program, in Nampa, agreed. “With an aging population, there are going to be shortages in the entire industry, from drivers up through administrators,” Younger predicted. “The idea is to get somebody at a young age and steer them in this direction.”
CWI, which also recently received PTDI recertification, “attracts a large number of non-traditional students,” Younger said. “But when we looked at age percentages, we found that 50 percent of drivers in Idaho were 45-64 years old in 2013. When we saw those figures, we realized there is a need for younger drivers. So we sat down to discuss how we could draw younger students.”
As a result, the college is starting a new Associate of Science degree program in transportation management in the fall of 2015. The two-year program will also include 15 weeks in driver training and will be worth about 65 transferable college credits.
“Since you can’t cross state lines as a driver until you’re 21, we wanted to target that younger market by offering the A.S. program,” Younger explained. “The whole idea is to get a better educated person in the transportation industry and to show them it’s not just about driving a truck.”
“This is a flagship program,” Younger said. “It could be groundbreaking. Everything in your house, everything you use, eat—all of it was transported by truck. So the shortage needs to be addressed now.”
Like Younger, Brown has sought ways to retain young drivers. With 26 years of offering PTDI-certified courses, Brown said they’ve trained some 18- or 19-year olds that “blew it away” in terms of passing their program. “We train a young man for three or four years until he turns 21 and the restriction comes off. Our hope is those years he’s been mentored will make him a reliable, safe driver and a good citizen. I’ve appreciated the PTDI program in helping us accomplish that.”
Center for Employment Education, in Anchorage, Alaska, the third program that received PTDI course recertification, has a different take on the driver shortage situation. “There’s a difference between us and the lower 48 states, in that there’s not as much over-the-road driving,” said John Lovdahl, director. “And few companies transport from Alaska.”
But students who have graduated from their program have an advantage should they want to drive for a major carrier. “From our perspective, the PTDI curriculum provides a good baseline that allows our students to be mobile so that if they wanted to go down to the lower 48, companies would recognize the PTDI certification,” Lovdahl said, “and the fact that they’ve been winter driving for six months a year would add value to them getting employment.”