CDL program looks to grow

by Talk Business & Politics staff ( 117 views 

Truck drivers remain in high demand as a Northwest Arkansas program looks to continue to address the shortage and works to recruit drivers, including women and veterans.

In early 2016, Northwest Technical Institute in Springdale, Mid-America Truck Driving School and the University of Arkansas Global Campus agreed to work together to recruit and train drivers. Initially, the focus of the program was to recruit women and veterans to become truck drivers, but it’s not excluded others.

“We are still emphasizing the need for women and veterans in the industry, as well as offering the opportunity to all those who qualify,” said Heather Sprandel, program coordinator of professional development for the UA Global Campus.

In mid-2016, Van Buren-based carrier USA Truck agreed to provide $55,000 for 15 scholarships to qualified applicants in the commercial driver’s license training program offered through NTI and the UA Global Campus. Six people have been sponsored through the program, and one was a woman, Sprandel said.

“We’ve been very pleased with our relationship with NTI and the University of Arkansas Global Campus,” said Steve Brantley, director of talent acquisition at USA Truck. More scholarship money is available, and he expects the program to continue.

“My hope for this potentially fantastic program is to see it grow and expand in its horizons,” said Doug Carter, president of Mid-America Truck Driving School. He hopes to see more companies participate in the program and believes it would be more successful if a company hiring for regional or local driving jobs were to participate in it as long-haul driving requires a big time commitment away from home.

Since Mid-America Truck Driving School was established at NTI in Springdale in 2015, about 50 women have completed CDL training at the school, and Carter said between 18% and 21% of students are women.