Trucking schools navigate driver shortage

Michigan

GRANDVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — A dwindling number of truckers is driving up costs for many retailers, but local driving schools aren’t sweating it right now.

This weekend, Fortune magazine reported that the shortage is affecting everything from Amazon to McDonald’s and cat litter to toothpaste.

“The demand has really skyrocketed,” said Mike Birdsall, president of West Michigan CDL, a truck driver training school in Grandville. “It’s not unheard of for people to have multiple job offers before they start their first day here.”

Demand may be up, but enrollment is not. Birdsall explained that lower enrollment is partially because there haven’t been many big layoffs or company closures. That’s when his school usually sees an influx of jobseekers.

“Right now, our enrollment is pretty good but not as strong as it would be in a little bit slower economy,” Birdsall told 24 Hour News 8.

The American Trucking Associations told NPR last month that companies need about 60,000 truck drivers. Companies like ALTL Inc. in Hudsonville say they are also well aware of the problem.

“It’s still a struggle to find them when you need to grow. You have to have drivers to grow a fleet,” ALTL President Claren Lau said.

Companies are getting creative. Some of them are working with released prisoners and Michigan Works! to steer more people in the direction of the trucking industry.

“We have to find that population that’s not in the industry today and bring it to the industry,” Lau said.

Birdsall also said companies are also offering big benefits, fat paychecks and flexibility.

“There’s a little bit of a misconception in trucking that you always have to start out as a new driver and be gone over the road for two or three weeks at a time, but right now the majority of our people are landing jobs where they’re home every night right out of truck driving schools,” he said.

Birdsall said his courses cost about $6,000 for certification. Most students are making $50,000 right out of school, he added.

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