In south-central Kentucky, the regional Workforce Development Council is helping to fill the shortage of truckers through a federal program that pays for training. Two men say the effort set them on a new path in life, thanks to those involved in the program who cheered them on at every turn.
At Franklin Express in Simpson County, Kentucky, James Boatright recently backed up a truck called a “construction dog.” His training for a commercial driver’s license, or CDL, was paid for through the federal Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act. Boatright said he was quickly hired as a local driver.
“Our company is contracted by Berry Plastics to transport its products to warehouses safely,” Boatright said. “I may have to move several trailers a day, so basically the farthest I go is across town. There’s another warehouse a little further down the street.”
He said when his previous job at a manufacturing company ended, he went to the Kentucky Career Center in Bowling Green.
“So I get there and meet this lady, her name is Amy Settles,” Boatright said. “He’s a fantastic person.”
Boatright said she told him about the CDL course at South Central Kentucky Community and Technical College and helped him work out all the details.
“She was really a beacon of hope for me in a very dark time because I have two young children,” Boatright said. “One of them is a three-year-old girl who has autism. They depend on me, and that’s why I changed my life, it’s because I no longer have the right to error.
Boatright, 31, said he had a high school English teacher who encouraged his writing skills, so he planned to major in journalism at Western Kentucky University. But when he was 19 and at WKU, his life took a detour.
“During this time, my father had leukemia and he passed away. I really felt like he was the only person I had in the world,” Boatright said. “And when he died, it’s like, OK, so now you have nobody, whereas do you do I happened to know people who were selling marijuana, and I knew I could get into that and make some money.
That little money turned out to be a costly mistake. He ended up going to jail.
“After I got out, I came home and struggled to find a job,” he said.
Boatright said he found people in the CDL program that made it easy for him to stay on track.
“There’s a gentleman there, he’s the head instructor, his name is Oakley Vaughn, and he’s probably one of the best people I’ve met in my life,” Boatright said. . “It’s not just him. It’s everyone and the staff at this school. They won’t give up on you, unless you give up yourself. The only way not to get your license would be if you gave up.
South Central Workforce Development Board President and CEO Robert Boone said people who are dedicated to helping others are at the heart of the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act, or WIOA.
“That’s also the beauty of the WIOA program is that we fund the program and work with them through the program and then after the program to find employment,” Boone said. “Because our number one goal isn’t the degree, it’s the job. And it’s not just the job, it’s job retention. It’s about changing lives.”
Boone said at least three people who were previously homeless have completed the CDL training program and are now employed and earning good incomes. He said the regional workforce council worked with SKYCTC to launch the program in July 2018 after a study found the 10 county region was short of 400 to 500 truck drivers.
Brian Miller, 39, said after being incarcerated for trafficking marijuana, his life took a positive turn when he returned home and visited the Kentuky Career Center in Bowling Green to find out how to get his commercial driver’s license.
“Amy Settles, she was so sweet. She took care of everything I needed and even gave me a scholarship so they would pay me to go to school too,” Miller said. “I was paid to go to school and they paid for schooling. I don’t see how you can go wrong with that.
Miller has three children and a stepson and said he makes a good living working for Taz Trucking in Warren County, driving to destinations within 100 miles.
“I come home every night, which is a good thing, especially since I’m coming home to my family,” he said. Miller.
When it comes to his career and business, Miller said he doesn’t want to go anywhere else.
“Especially, you know, where I’m at right now, Taz Trucking. They’re great people,” Miller said. “Here is like a starting and stopping point for me.”
Taz Trucking planning manager Chris Fulkerson said the Warren County Transportation Company hired two drivers who had been trained under the WIOA program at SKYCTC and they both performed well. He said Taz Trucking currently has a fleet of 110 trucks.
“We are probably in the second year of a major national driver shortage. There is always more freight and more and more trucks to fill than we seem to have drivers. It’s absolutely the driver’s market,” Fulkerson said. “We are always looking for new employees. We have just added 10 trucks and 15 new trailers to our fleet, as we continue to increase our capacity we need new qualified drivers every week.
The regional CDL program has funded the training of 76 men and 14 women since its launch in July 2018. It has expanded to Hart County to give residents in that part of the region the opportunity to participate in the WIOA training program. Of these 90 people enrolled in the CDL program, 57 have a job and 26 are still in training.
They are in a high demand career. The American Trucking Associations reports that there is currently a shortage of 60,000 drivers. This shortage is expected to increase to 100,000 in the next few years.