Winona truck driving program provides opportunities for younger drivers amidst nationwide trucker shortage

WINONA, Minn. (WKBT) – Another nationwide shortage is impacting the supply chain.

The country is short roughly 80,000 truck drivers.

There are several factors, including the fact that many truckers are retiring and the pandemic temporarily shut down some trucking programs, says Tom Gierok, truck driving instructor for Minnesota State College Southeast in Winona.

The need for truckers is actually opening the door for younger people, XXXX says.

Two Minnesota State College Southeast students see opportunity when they look into the cab.

“You get to control your day,” student Nathan Bise said.

“It’s one of the best careers out there currently as far as return on investment,” student Andrew Pederson said.

Pederson and Bise are each in their second day of their school’s two-month trucking program.

“(I) hope to pass first and foremost,” Pederson said.

Learning the necessary skills they’ll need to keep in mind down the road.

“It’s going to be a lifelong skill I can use,” Bise said. “I think I’m going to like it.”

Pic Trucker Shortage

Gierok is glad that future truckers are continuing to apply.

“We’ve been fortunate that we’ve been able to get them jobs,” Gierok said.

Gierok says it helps that each program is only two months long.

“There’s not a lot programs out there that, within eight weeks, you can be finished, graduated, licensed, and go to a great-paying career,” he said.

Gierok says there are going to be even more applicants.

Entry-level drivers don’t have to take a trucking class to become a certified driver.

But beginning in February, the federal government will require entry-level drivers to be trained through a school trucking program, like the one at Minnesota State College Southeast.

“It means that they’re going to have be going to a school that’s on the provider registry,” Gierok said.

Gierok’s solution to getting more truckers? Higher pay and better conditions.

Because if there continues to be a shortage, you likely aren’t getting your package on time.

“I mean it stimulates the entire American economy, so we need truck drivers going forward,” Pederson said.

Experts say truckers move 71 percent of the goods in the American economy.

The infrastructure bill awaiting passage in Congress includes billions of dollars for transportation.

Workforce development for the trucking industry is included in the bill, which would allow everyone 18 and older to  drive across state borders.

Right now, only truck drivers 21 and older can carry goods across the country.

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