The Virginia Ready Initiative’s Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Talent Task Force was recently held in partnership with Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC) and the Virginia Trucking Association (VTA), creating opportunities to discuss and update best practices for getting new CDL students through their Scholar journey and helping them obtain a job in the trucking industry. Over 20 community colleges were represented at the meeting to talk about progress and current industry-wide and regional challenges.
The CDL credential is where VA Ready sees the highest enrollment out of the 36 supported programs. As of September 2022, over 1,721 CDL Scholars have been accepted, and 1,005 CDL Scholars have earned their credential. Of the credentialed Scholars, about 55% are currently employed in the trucking industry. Notably, 20% of VA Ready CDL Scholars are female—a strong contrast to the current industry average. Industrywide, female drivers only account for about 9% of the workforce.
Duncan Quicke, the coordinator for SVCC’s Truck Driver Training School, is still seeing a huge demand for drivers and confirms that now is a great time to get into trucking for the increased pay and benefits. The training school at SVCC is in its 27th year and has multiple facilities, with 3,100 trained truck drivers to date.
Ward Best, the former chairman of the VTA and Vice President of Atlantic Bulk Carrier, the largest tank truck carrier based in Virginia, agreed that the industry depends on the talent pipeline of the community college system to staff their businesses.
Quicke and Best both reinforced the strict regulations that are particularly unique to the trucking industry. Due to these regulations and inherent liability, hiring criteria must be restrictive to ensure quality and safety.
Industry leaders expressed how important it is for those hoping to enter the industry to understand the realities of working in trucking. The types of trucking jobs and schedules vary, and the lifestyle can be a challenging one. For that reason, many companies and shippers are currently trying to shift operations to allow a better quality of life for their workers with less time on the road and increased employee retention.
Overall, trucking companies still need more employable, qualified drivers enrolling in the CDL programs at community colleges. Students need to have a better awareness of trucking regulations before going through a program and getting their credentials.
Things Prospective CDL Students Should Know:
- Drivers must be 21 years old to drive interstate commerce (across state lines). However, 18-year-olds can still get their CDL and find a local job to get their experience and establish a good driving record.
- Trucking can get lonely. Drivers are not often collaborating face-to-face with people, and some schedules can mean drivers spend considerable time away from family.
- Every day is different and unexpected events can and will occur. There is no typical day and the weather creates another element of surprise.
- The industry is transitioning to automatic transmissions, but colleges are still teaching with manual transmissions to make sure students are prepared for either scenario.
Reasons a Driver May Not be Hired:
- A candidate does not have a valid CDL
- A candidate is unable to pass a drug test
- A candidate has a DUI or other serious event on their driving record within the last 5 years
- Candidates’ resume shows frequent job-hopping and/or employment gaps
Qualities of Good Candidates:
- Stable work history
- Driving experience
- Valid CDL, hazmat endorsement and other accompanying accomplishments
- Passes drug tests and has a clean driving record
- Proficient in pre-trip test, backing, and highway driving
Many companies and carriers require employers to undergo a 90-day training period to gain more experience. This total timeframe can vary depending on the proficiency of skills each carrier requires. Larger national carriers and some of the over-the-road (OTR) trucking companies based in Virginia will hire drivers into a training program to ensure their talent pipeline and fulfill their needs. However, some Virginia carriers cannot hire folks without experience due to insurance requirements.
VA Ready’s Scholar data shows that over 55% of credentialed CDL Scholars are employed. However, others in the remaining 45%, based on this data collection, may not have been qualified for CDL positions if they had a poor driving record, could be self-employed, or employed outside of the industry.
Hearing these concerns, the VA Ready team noted multiple upcoming changes for CDL Scholar applications to guarantee more opportunities for success, including an additional vetting process. VA Ready will start examining a Scholar’s driving record and decline applications if their record shows a DUI or DWI within the last 5 years. Applicants with other traffic violations will still be accepted and notified that some violations could impact their employment eligibility. More information regarding these changes will be shared in advance before implementation.
Part of Virginia Ready’s mission is to ensure Scholars have the greatest opportunity to achieve employment within the industry they earned their credential. In order to reach this goal for CDL Applicants, VA Ready will be providing career path resources and adding these application requirements with the intention of producing a better prepared workforce for transportation and logistics companies across the Commonwealth.
Thanks again to everyone who attended our CDL Talent Task Force! Learn more about supported CDL programs on our Skilled Trades page.