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‘There is a great need:’ J-Tech witnesses increased interest in CDL training amid driver shortage (Courtesy of the Jacksonville Business Journal) — The phrase driver shortage is at the top of mind for leaders of public transportation companies, private trucking companies and the scores of people in Northeast Florida who are dependent on reliable trucking solutions.

“Every single 18-wheeler that you pass on I-95 has a sign that says ‘We’re hiring,’” said Dani Wampler, the Institutional Development Officer for Jones Technical Institute (J-Tech). “There is not a tractor trailer that doesn’t have a need.”

Not only has J-Tech’s commercial driver’s license (CDL) program witnessed a spike in applicants, Wampler reported it is also witnessing renewed interest in its diesel technology maintenance program.

“There are a lot of people who through the pandemic have decided to make a change in career,” Wampler said. “I have seen people in the medical field, in corporate America who are making a mid-career change. We have people with the GI Bill who are coming out of the military. We have people who are coming to us through different financial means.”

Wampler noted between 18 to 20 companies are recruiting J-Tech students, ranging from over-the-road companies to regional and local companies.

Nevertheless, that has not been enough to stem the tide. The number of people with a CDL in Duval County has declined each of the past two years to 27,319 this year.

For the five-county region, the 42,071 people with a CDL is fractionally smaller than in 2019. Whether it’s the Florida Trucking Association or local companies, there is an insistence that jobs are available in the trucking industry.

In its occupational employment and wage statistics that it released in May, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported there are 1.4 million workers in America’s truck transportation industry. The median hourly wage of those 1.1 million people who are behind the wheel of a truck was $22.35 an hour.

Closer to home, the median hourly wage for the 12,560 bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists in Florida was $23.14. For the 86,790 heavy and tractor trailer truck drivers, that number was $19.54. Meanwhile, the 57,500 light truck drivers in the state had a median hourly wage of $15.95.

Earlier this year, Patriot Transportation Holding raised its rates by 15% in an attempt to recruit more drivers. Patriot was far from alone. Wampler said the companies that recruit at J-TECH are continually adding additional inducements to attract drivers.

“There are too many holes in the dam,” Wampler said. “We are doing our part in North Florida. There is a great need.”