In a Bismarck State College parking lot, students are practicing to get their commercial drivers license. Many of them already have jobs lined up.
That includes George Iglecias.
“I’m going to enroll in Pepsi,” Iglecias said.
George’s three classmates have plans, too.
“Three days into me doing this course, I had a job,” student Andy Lam said.
With that hiring demand comes a higher paycheck, making trucking an attractive job for some.
“It’s unbelievable. Three of us already have jobs out of four. The pay. The pay is astounding,” student Blake Vetter said.
Course Manager Brian Ellersick says jobs can start around $60,000 to $70,000. That’s partly because of a shortage of drivers nationwide and in North Dakota.
“This time last year in North Dakota there was about 750 job openings for transportation for the trucking industry. I just checked the report this morning for April this year, and it was at 1,400 job openings,” Ellersick said.
Ellersick oversees the college’s CDL class, which 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.
The Bismarck-based trucking company Midwest Motor Express is feeling the effects of the shortage, too.
“We do experience driver shortages in both pools — the local pickup and delivery drivers, and our line-haul drivers. We’re always advertising somewhere for drivers. I know we’ve been as short as 8-10 from time to time,” Midwest Motor Express President Marlin Kling said.
Kling says the shortage could become a bigger problem as the need for shipping for companies like Amazon, grow.
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.