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North Dakota college addresses trucker shortage with CDL-driving classes

Big rig powerful professional industrial blue bonnet semi truck for long haul delivery commercial cargo going with refrigerator semi trailer on the summer road with forest and meadows on the sides

The national driver shortage is in the news regularly with no clear end in sight, but one college in North Dakota is taking on the challenge to prepare new commercial drivers.

Bismarck State College offers a continuing education career path providing a well-rounded education that prepares students for both parts of the commercial driver’s license exam. The training starts with coursework in truck driving safety, driving techniques, and North Dakota driving laws. Then, students practice truck driving skills under the watchful eye of a certified driving instructor.

Course Manager Brian Ellersick says truck driving is becoming more attractive because of the starting pay potential ($60,000-$70,000) and wide range of options. “This time last year in North Dakota there were about 750 job openings for transportation for the trucking industry. In April this year, it was at 1,400 job openings,” Ellersick said.

The college’s CDL class lasts three weeks for those who enroll in the four-person course. It started in January funded through a state commerce grant, and so far, eight of its students are now working in trucking. “Our June class is already full, and we already have interest in the July and August classes,” Ellersick said.

Course content delivery is provided in multiple formats including lecture, class discussion, audiovisual material, independent assignments, hands-on or behind-the-wheel demonstrations, and student participation.

Starting next February, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is requiring training for entry-level drivers. Ellersick says that’ll likely cause enrollment in the class to skyrocket.