The executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Training Association (CVTA) said he is trying to form a coalition to fight changes in federal laws and regulations that will make it harder for individuals to qualify for financial aid to pay for truck driver training.
Mike O’Connell said new restrictions on student loans and grants are making it more difficult for privately run training schools to attract enough students to meet the growing demand for entry-level drivers by fleet operators.
“We have formed a new corporation – National Transportation Jobs Partnership, Inc. – and we’re asking that motor carriers, schools and industry suppliers come together to more effectively lobby Congress and the Department of Education to help us put more people to work,” O’Connell said.
In a related development, members of a school committee of the Truckload Carriers Association voted last week at the TCA annual conference in Kissimmee, Fla., to create a task force to look into alternative sources of funding for driver training.
Robert McClanahan, executive director of the National Association of Publicly Funded Truck Driving Schools and co-chairman of the TCA school committee, said the U.S. Department of Education has indicated to some school officials that it may raise a minimum program requirement to 600 hours to qualify for student loans or grants.
“A lot of our programs are 300 hours,” McClanahan said.
CVTA’s O’Connell said a recent spending bill passed by Congress also changed the ability of students who do not have a high school diploma or General Educational Development diploma or certificate to access federal funding for training.
Federal job training funds are funneled through more than 700 local workforce development boards and agencies under the Workforce Investment Act.
That’s a problem in many places, O’Connell said, because the local boards “are run like fiefdoms.”
One Texas resident was denied a grant for his training because he worked for a carrier headquartered in another state, O’Connell said.
Lou Spoonhour, owner of Driveco CDL Learning Center in Gary, Ind., said he used to get enough money from Workforce Investment Act programs to cover training expenses for up to half of the students at his school. In May last year, however, that money dried up. “We were told that there was so much competition and less funding,” he said.
Although funding has recently resumed, Spoonhour said it no longer covers the full cost of training.