WITC’s new training program will alleviate truck driver shortage in region

By Sara Franc
WITC is now offering a 10-week truck driving diploma that will prepare students to obtain their class A and B Commercial Driver’s License. Those interested in the truck driving program can apply anytime on the WITC website. The next class session starts July 30 at the WITC-Rice Lake campus with day or evening/Saturday sessions available.

The demand for truck drivers in Northwest Wisconsin is consistently ranked high as an in-demand and high-paying occupation. According to labor market research by Northwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board, truck driving is the number one occupation on the “Best Job Prospects in Northwest Wisconsin” chart.

“Once you have earned your CDL, you will always find employment and will never be hungry,” said Dan Cooper, CDL truck driving instructor.

The truck driving diploma covers the basics of truck driving from learning how to document hours of service, cargo handling and how to drive and shift an 18-wheeler. Advanced activities will include learning how to maneuver and back a big rig in challenging situations.

“Our intention as instructors is to accelerate first-rate professional drivers, preparing them to begin their own journey into a career path in dire need of knowledgeable, eager and safe semi-drivers,” said Janine Running, CDL truck driving instructor.

Through classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction, students will experience realistic situations that are encountered in small town and urban driving settings.

“Experiencing unfamiliar ground can be exciting, unnerving but mostly rewarding, knowing that at the end of the course you are equipped with the tools and ability to control an 18-wheeler,” said Running. “In addition, the propensity to drive a semi-truck is not to be denied to either male or female; ones’ sexual gender makes no difference. It is up to individuals whether or not they desire the CDL license enough to commit to this course to better themselves.”

Upon completion of the program, graduates will have a variety of opportunities available.

“Trucking companies are currently offering a variety of dispatching opportunities and sign-on bonuses to make trucking more attractive,” said Cooper. “If one wants the more traditional long-haul, life-on-the-road job, those are still available, but many other opportunities exist that all allow more home time.”

According to Cooper, the starting pay for truck drivers varies.

“In Northwest Wisconsin, entry-level earnings range from $34,000–$48,000 per year, not including sign-on bonuses or overtime hours,” said Cooper. “Earning potential for experienced drivers can range from $70,000 to $80,000 per year.”

Jerry Wendt is a graduate from the truck driving program and is currently employed at Schneider National. Wendt has some encouraging words for those who may be on the fence about completing the diploma.

“I want to say on my behalf that Janine Running is the best instructor at WITC,” said Wendt. “She has the knowledge and patience to work with students to achieve their goals. For me, to take the program was one of the best choices I made.”