A high school in California has introduced an elective course which will teach students how to drive 18-wheelers. The Covid-19 pandemic, amid other factors, has changed the way the trucking industry operates. There is a massive shortage in drivers, despite how heavily Americans rely on trucks for their goods.
Patterson High School, located in Patterson, CA, recently began a course geared towards truck driving. The school offers the course as an elective for high school seniors, as well as a tuition-free course for non-student adults. The website states: “Patterson Adult Education School has developed a comprehensive program to train and educate students. This semester-long class comprised of 180 hours and consists of classroom instruction, demonstrations, hands-on exercises, and simulator experience. Upon completion of the course students will be prepared to take the CDL written exam which is issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles.”
However, unless the DRIVE-Safe Act is passed by Congress, companies will have to continue to require drivers to be at least 21 years old to drive an 18-wheeler. There’s a debate over whether or not there truly is a shortage of drivers in terms of economics, but it remains that companies are consistently looking for more drivers and trying to offer higher wages and better benefits.
Regardless, the average age of drivers is anywhere from 48 to 54 (NPR) and companies would like to have younger drivers. At least 70% of the freight within the U.S. is moved by truckers, so a shortage in drivers can cause shortages within stores (Newsweek).
There aren’t a lot of positives associated with working as a truck driver. The instructor of the course, Dave Dein, wants to change that. “Trucking doesn’t have a great reputation and it comes with a lot of misconceptions about what exactly a truck driver is.” He has been working in the trucking industry since he was in college. It began as a way to stay afloat financially, but turned into a passion and livelihood for him. “I would always either drive on the weekends or part-time not because I had to, but because I enjoyed it.”