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New CDL+ program makes career in trucking industry more financially feasible for Hoosiers

Truck drivers continue to be in high demand.
Posted at 9:20 AM, Dec 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-15 09:20:55-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Truck drivers continue to be in high demand, especially during the pandemic and the need for items to be transported and delivered.

The American Trucking Association projects freight volumes are expected to grow 36% over the next decade. Over that same period, the trucking industry will need to hire roughly 1.1 million new drivers to keep up with demand.

Ivy Tech Community College has launched the nation’s first training program for commercial truck drivers covered by federal student loans.

The first-of-its-kind program allows students to cover their education with federal student loans. It includes supplemental programming that enhances a graduate’s employability in the increasingly growing trucking industry.

The Central Indiana trucking company, Venture Logistics, employs around 900 drivers, and there is always a need for more.

“We want to grow as much as we can,” says Jeff Davis, Chief Administrative Officer of Venture Logistics. “With the warehousing division and the brokerage division, we have a lot of opportunities. We would like to see more young drivers get in the market.”

Venture Logistics has been in business since 1995. The company thrives on truck driver talent, something he hopes a new program with Ivy Tech will bring in.

“It is going to allow folks to think about beyond just driving a truck,” explains Davis. “They are going to have the opportunity to get the logistics degree, hours towards it anyway, and that will allow them to say, they can come in and start working right away driving a truck, making $50k or more a year. It is going to be an opportunity for the trucking company and the driver to decide, well maybe I want to try a different part of the business, and we have a lot of ability for them to do that.”

The CDL+ program was developed in partnership with the Indiana Motor Truck Association and Conexus Indiana.

“A student can come into the CDL+ program, walk out with the driver’s license, training, and walk into a facility like Venture Logistics right out of the program,” says Bryce Carpenter, Vice President of Industry Engagement at Conexus Indiana.

Conexus Indiana is a non-profit organization focused on the advanced manufacturing and logistics industries in the state.

“The CDL+ program is an enhanced commercial driver license program that not only teaches the federal minimum required training, as most states do, but also has an academic portion that includes 17 credit hours towards a two-year logistics and supply chain degree at Ivy Tech,” explains Carpenter.

Advanced manufacturing and logistics are a third of Indiana’s GDP, and $560-billion worth of goods come through the state each year, according to Carpenter. Those goods are transported predominantly through the trucking industry, and there is a shortage of roughly 80,000 truck drivers nationally. The Indiana Motor Truck Association estimates there are about 4,000 drivers short within the state.

“The overall goal is to eliminate some of the friction and the resistance of people getting into the trucking industry from a CDL drivers perspective,” states Carpenter.

For many drivers, the financial barrier is an obstacle to enter the trucking industry, and the time it takes to train. Because of the academic credits, the CDL+ program at Ivy Tech is eligible for federal student loans and the Next Level Jobs grants, which go towards driver training.

“It was a critical need before the pandemic; it is going to be more critical on the backend given how many more things are being delivered,” says Carpenter.

It is one opportunity for Hoosiers to find stable employment and a pathway to climb the ladder in this career.

For Indiana companies, this will offer a new pipeline of talent to an industry that is not going anywhere anytime soon.

“If a person is really going to do well in a trucking company and proceed up the ladder of opportunity,” says Davis. “They need to drive a truck for at least a year or two. It gives them a perception that someone coming out of college with a logistics degree has no idea. So the opportunities at Venture would be warehousing, logistics, 3PL work, warehouse work, driver management. There are just so many different ways that they can progress when they decide they don't want to drive a truck anymore.”

CDL+ is a 17-credit hour certificate that can be completed in one semester. Students will have 160 hours of training, which prepares them to become Class A commercial driver's license holders. The program includes 121 hours of operating observation, 30 hours of behind-the-wheel skill development, an 8-week internship, an overview of logistics and transportation, including all types of trucking operations, including intermodal processes. There is also a focus on professionalism and customer service.

The CDL+ curriculum will be offered to begin in January at five Ivy Tech campuses. An additional seven locations will offer the courses as well by the end of 2021.

The campuses that will be first to provide the training are:

  • Fort Wayne
  • Lawrenceburg
  • Terre Haute
  • Evansville
  • Laporte

Learn more about the program and how to apply: https://www.ivytech.edu/workforce/cdl/index.html.

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