Iowa Dedicates $6 Million for Entry-Level CDL Reimbursement

Iowa Trucks and traffic near Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (The [Cedar Rapids] Gazette)

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Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced $6 million to reimburse eligible employers to help remove obstacles for new truck drivers who want an entry-level commercial driver license.

“Truck drivers play such a critical role in meeting our supply chain demands — ‘If you got it, a truck driver brought it.’ Like the rest of the nation, Iowa, too, has a high demand for truck drivers; and in order to meet that demand, we need innovative solutions that reduce barriers for anyone interested in obtaining a CDL,” Reynolds said Dec. 5.

The new effort is called the Iowa Entry-Level Driver Training Program. It is available for Iowa-based employers, employer consortia and nonprofits who hire Iowa CDL drivers and provide entry-level driver training either in-house or with third-party certified training providers.



Brenda Neville, president and CEO of Iowa Motor Truck Association, said Reynolds reached out to IMTA to help devise a way to bolster the state’s trucking industry, which is at the top of the governor’s workforce priorities, along with nursing.

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Neville

Neville 

“We are thrilled that trucking is on that list,” Neville said, adding that the new program will “help us get people into the industry.”

The grants can be used to reimburse in-house CDL programs for instructor wages, curriculum materials and maintenance needs. For third-party providers, employers can receive funds to pay for tuition for entry-level driver training.

The state will administer grant reimbursements only after documentation for training certification and a CDL exam within 30 days of a participant’s first day of either behind-the-wheel training or theory instruction. Online applications must be made by Feb. 3 at IowaGrants.gov.

Beth Townsend, director of Iowa Workforce Development, said the new grant program is meant to create more opportunities to get a CDL and make it easier for employers to recruit and train their own drivers.

“This new program will break down barriers that currently exist for obtaining a CDL and provide support to organizations who sponsor these critical training opportunities right here in Iowa,” Reynolds said.

The governor’s office noted that this year’s new mandate by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for entry-level driver training is “requiring all new drivers to undertake additional training requirements on top of existing CDL standards” and is creating obstacles to getting more new commercial drivers on the road.

“Current CDL training can be costly and/or limited, making the pathway to obtain or upgrade a license more difficult despite a much higher demand for drivers,” the governor’s office stated.

IMTA helped educate Reynolds about entry-level driving training issues and how to achieve the governor’s desire “to move the needle” in removing obstacles.

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Reynolds

Reynolds 

“This program was created to set up some alternative training methods, particularly for the agricultural segment,” Neville explained, adding that new FMCSA requirements are creating “a barrier to entry and we are noticing it in the agricultural segment.”

Pointing out that Iowa is a key agricultural state, she said, “We have a lot of trucks because we have a lot of farmers.”

Before this year’s new FMCSA requirements, Iowa had “a lot of farm kids, both men and women very familiar with trucks,” who had truck driving experience and could go to the state department of transportation to get their CDL faster and at a lower cost, but now must take instruction in courses meeting new federal requirements that last multiple weeks and cost thousands of dollars, Neville said.

Thanks to the governor’s new CDL program, state grants can serve as incentives to help offset higher entry-level CDL costs.

Neville said the governor is “willing to do that because it’s important that we keep trucks moving in the state of Iowa.”

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