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Truck Driving Programs Serve a Crucial Need in Lehigh Valley Workforce

By LVEDC Staff on July 14, 2015

One of the trucks used in Northampton Community College's commercial driver’s license program, one of several such programs in the Lehigh Valley.

One of the trucks used in Northampton Community College’s commercial driver’s license program, one of several such programs in the Lehigh Valley.

“Eastbound and down, loaded up and truckin’, we’re gonna do what they said can’t be done.”

These are the familiar lyrics echoed by Jerry Reed through the 1977 classic Burt Reynolds’ film Smokey and the Bandit.

But truck drivers serve a much more important role than hauling bootlegged Coors beer. It is a crucial sector for the Lehigh Valley, particularly with the growth of e-commerce and other industries that rely on the region’s proximity to all the major markets in the Northeastern U.S.

Several Lehigh Valley educational institutions are taking pride in educating the future of America’s roadways, including the Lehigh Career & Technical Institute, Northampton Community College, and Lehigh Carbon Community College.

A new Workforce and Economic Development Strategic Plan commissioned by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) and the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board, which will be unveiled later this month, found that truck drivers are one of the biggest occupational demands for the region.

“Commercial truck drivers are in shortage across the entire country, so it’s not shocking that a similar situation exists here in the Lehigh Valley,” said Don Cunningham, LVEDC President and CEO. “The whole reason we developed this strategic plan was to identify gaps in our workforce and take steps to address them, and educational programs like these are crucial to doing that.”

LCTI has been offering Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) training since the infancy of the school. In partnership with the SAGE Technology Services, a Central Pennsylvania-based technology firm, LTCI has been turning out the numbers by the masses.

“Thousands of drivers have come through the program over the years,” says Randy Zimmerman, program director at LCTI.

Zimmerman has been at the helm of the program for last 17 years, “we provide specific 1 on 1 training to our students, which is a huge added value to their training.”

With six-week programs starting every month, the students of the LCTI take on a holistic program of skill development, safety regulations, maintenance, and intra- and inter-state regulations.

There’s also NCC’s CDL training program located on its new Monroe Campus. Tina Frindt, CDL program director, said nearly 3,000 graduates have gone through the program since its formation in 1994.

The program isn’t just fulfilling the needs of the new distribution plants in the region, but are also fulfilling the personal need of the students, Frindt said.

“It always amazes me when graduates approach me and talk about how the program changed their lives,” she said. “It helped them go on their first real vacation or bought their first new car, etc. We change people’s lives and they appreciate that. That is why we do this.”

Offering both Class A & B certifications, The NCC CDL program teaches students about vehicle control systems, DOT rules and regulations, legal topics of interest to trucking and transportation, safe operation, and defensive drive, speed, and space management. It also includes a driving simulator to help train their students.

“The simulator helps students that are new to the industry learn how to shift who have never driven a truck,” Frindt said. “This helps us save on maintenance and gives our students the confidence they need to be successful.

Both programs have the Professional Truck Driver Institute seal of certification, which gives added value to the employers for their insurance.

To find more information about these programs click on the links below:

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