High Schools Adding Truck Driver Programs

Patterson High School in California now offers the first-of-its-kind model truck driver program for high school seniors, and its popularity is attracting potential programs in at least 60 other schools nationwide.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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Just like with the great American teacher shortage, the United States is facing a severe lack of truck drivers. But today, public schools are looking to reverse this growing trend. A new program training high school students with semi-operating skills in Patterson, California schools is a model program sparking interest with others all across the nation.

K-12 Dive reported about this peculiar elective that is now offered to high school seniors at Patterson High School. The public school is one of the first of its kind to offer a truck driver course outside of non-vocational schools. Now, this new opportunity is made possible with the help of Morning Star Trucking.

Both the big-rig company and the district are hopeful that this new program will entice a new generation of truck drivers to the industry. The course preps students with needed semi-operating knowledge, and even opens up future opportunities for employment with the company after high school. What’s more, in its short time of existence it has already garnered attention from schools all across the nation. 

At least 60 other high schools have now shown interest in creating similar truck driver programs. The Patterson high school’s trucking program coordinator, Dave Dein, was pleasantly surprised to see how much attention the concept was gaining. “I’m amazed at what we’ve accomplished,” he exclaimed.

But how does the program work? In Patterson, students are first given a crash course overview of the trucking industry as a whole. Classes cover the industry’s newest innovations and technology gearing up the industry. Additionally, participating students must complete 90 hours of hands-on truck driver activity along with 90 hours of in-class lectures.

The goal of this truck driver program is to reverse a plethora of issues rife in the trucking industry. To start, there is a massive driver shortage all across America that is greatly affecting supply chains and delivery times. At the beginning of the year, it was estimated that the U.S. was short more than 80,000 truck drivers.

While this problem was exacerbated significantly by the COVID pandemic, it was a growing issue escalating over the last few decades. Making the situation worse, fewer young Americans are showing an interest in the field of work. The average age of today’s truck drivers is 46 years old.

This is a serious concern to experts, who know just how vital these jobs are as the demand for deliveries continues to grow across the nation. The American Trucking Association warns that the country will need to take on at least one million new truck drivers over the next decade to accompany increased demands and the retirement of the majority of the workforce. Overall, they are hoping that public school programs can incentivize newcomers.

These truck driver programs still are faced with obstacles needed to be overcome in order to attract teenagers to the industry. Stereotypes and false wage claims need to be addressed. The program hopes to spread the word that truck drivers earn comfortable and even exceptional living wages. 

truck driver

While the outlook on the truck driver school program is high, it is unknown for now if and when it will launch in other schools. But given the urgency from the industry, similar public school programs may soon pop up. After all, more Americans are abandoning higher education and seeing the potential of vocational skill jobs such as this.