November 17, 2017 2:00 PM, EST

Georgia Technical School Adds Seats To Truck Driving Class

Truck driver education through Albany Technical CollegeWALB10 via YouTube

Albany Technical College, based in Albany, Ga., is increasing enrollment opportunities for students studying to be truck drivers.

The number of seats available in the Commercial Truck Driving and Industrial Operations Technician programs will increase by one-third for the spring semester, according to a recent press announcement issued by the college.

The Industrial Operations class capacity will increase from 240 to 260 and the capacity of the Commercial Truck Driving class will rise from 150 to 225.

Both classes are included in Gov. Nathan Deal’s Hope Career Grant program, which offers financial aid for enrolled students.

“It’s obviously good news. We’re happy for it. We need more people in the industry in both those positions,” said Edward Crowell, president of the Georgia Motor Trucking Association. “It’s one of those things that’s going to take a while to bear some fruit.”

The school said that the Commercial Truck Driving program could help redress the industrywide dearth of truck drivers. The trucking industry will face a shortage of 50,000 drivers by the end of the year, according to American Trucking Associations.

“With a shortage of commercial truck drivers, the need for more graduates of the program is ever increasing,” the press release said.

Crowell said the increase in class capacity by itself is not enough “to make a huge change in the industry.” However, he said he hopes the increase is part of a sustained trend, as the driver shortage has been a chief priority for GMTA and state government officials.

The college’s Commercial Truck Driving program has been around for decades, according to the press release. Some of the program’s graduates have gone to work for trucking companies such as Southern Ag, Averitt Express and Benny Whitehead, all of which are located within a 75-mile radius of the college.

“That’s one of those things that hopefully will continue. It would be really nice if, in a few years, we’re talking about the fact that the area’s so saturated that graduates from this program have to go elsewhere to find jobs,” Crowell said. “I’m sure they will continue to get offers from elsewhere because they graduate a quality product of student and the demand’s there.”

Albany Tech and the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission’s Industry Roundtable created the Industrial Operations program in 2015 in an effort “to better prepare potential employees in the area for positions with local industries,” the press release states. Such local businesses include Procter and Gamble, MillerCoors, the Marine Corps Logistics Base and SASCO Chemicals.

"Our national, state and local economies depend heavily on transporting goods and keeping the supply chain moving through truck drivers," said Emmett Griswold, dean of academic affairs at Albany Technical College. "Our duty as a state entity is to respond to the needs and demands of employers within our region. Increasing the opportunity to produce more employees for employers is the right decision."

Albany Tech said that 28 students have received certification in the Industrial Operations program and are employed with 17 different companies within the region. Nine students are registered in the fall semester class.

Albany Tech, a public institution, is part of the Technical College System of Georgia. Albany is located about 90 miles north of Tallahassee, Fla.

The Technical College System of Georgia is one of the partners in the governor’s High Demand Career Initiative, a program that allows private sector companies to communicate with training institutions about their specific needs regarding workforce development.

Crowell described the High Demand Career Initiative as an “all-hands-on-deck initiative focusing on industries that are in need of workers.” According to Crowell, GMTA works closely with this program in an effort to make jobs in trucking more appealing to people.

“[We’ve been] working with them all summer looking at tax changes, incentives and other legislature changes that might be necessary or well-advised to make it more desirable to be in the industry as either a driver or a mechanic,” Crowell said.