New school, state legislature working to recruit more truck drivers.

Eric Spangler

“I tried factory work, I tried a bunch of stuff and it just didn’t pan out,” she says. It turns out her career choice was closer than she thought. Her boyfriend is a truck driver who hauls cars for a living and her father, who she says was the first person in the state of Ohio to earn a 100 percent score on the commercial drivers license test, was also a truck driver.

“I figured I wanted to give (driving a truck) a try so I went to the school and I realized I liked it a lot and I just stuck with it,” says Bevington. After earning her commercial drivers license she then learned that Jet Express Inc. in Dayton was looking for drivers.

She applied at Jet Express, completed its training program and was hired. “I was like, ‘Oh, all right, I’ve got me a job. Cool,’” says Bevington. Now she loves being a truck driver. “I’ve never been happier,” she says.

Kevin Burch, president of Jet Express Inc. and chairman of the American Trucking Associations, wishes more people would realize how happy they could be driving a truck.

That’s because the transportation industry is facing a critical shortage of drivers due to the retirement of many older truck drivers each year. “We need almost a million truck drivers in the next 10 years,” says Burch.

That need for drivers is exacerbated because many companies that used to store products in warehouses are now making their products during the day and shipping them that night for delivery the next day, he says. “Trucking is truly the rolling inventory of today’s goods,” says Burch.

The critical need for truck drivers has not gone unnoticed by legislators, including state Rep. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg). “Over the last two years trucking has been the No. 1 open job in the Dayton region every month,” he says. “It fluctuates between 1,800 and 2,000 open jobs in the 14-county Dayton region.”

Antani says he and other state legislators have introduced a package of four bills aimed at attracting people to a career as a truck driver. The bill Antani authored would help young adults get insurance.

“You can get a (commercial drivers license) and drive across state lines if you’re 21, but until you’re 25 it is very difficult to get insurance,” says Antani. “And you can drive within state lines at 18, but again it’s very difficult to get insurance for that,” he says.

That puts trucking companies at a disadvantage because they can’t recruit new drivers straight out of high school, says Antani. “For trucking you really can’t do it until they are 25 and most people are settled and on a path to a career by that age,” he says.

Another bill would make it easier for veterans who have experience in truck driving to earn their commercial drivers license. A third bill would provide tax credits for companies to develop their own on-the-job training schools for new drivers.

The fourth bill would help students receive loans and scholarships to attend schools that train people to drive trucks and earn their commercial drivers license. Burch says most truck driving programs cost $5,000 to $7,000.

Helping students pay for truck driving schools would certainly help Kimberly Kegley, who recently started a commercial drivers license training academy in Piqua.

“There are tons of individuals that want to get their (commercial drivers license) but there’s no funding available for them,” says Kegley. “That’s the main thing we run into is just people just can’t get funding.”

Although students who attend college can get grants, “The trade industry has kind of got pushed aside and that’s the whole thing that runs this nation,” says Kegley, a former truck driver and commercial drivers license examiner.

Not only can students complete the program in four weeks, but there’s a good chance that graduates who pass their commercial drivers license test will be able to find a job earning between $40,000 to $50,000 a year immediately, says Kegley.

Not only is the money good, but Bevington says as a truck driver you’re seeing the country instead of sitting behind a desk all day. Plus, the life of a truck driver is very quiet and relaxing, she says.

“I would definitely suggest if somebody likes to travel and they want to see the world and they want to make good money, … I would suggest driving a truck for a living,” says Bevington.

Although many would consider truck driving to be an industry dominated by men, Kelsey and Bevington are perfect examples of how women are just as capable as men of doing the job. “I’m a girl, but that doesn’t mean I can’t drive a truck,” Bevington says.

Sounds like Bevington has finally found her career. “Yeah, I’m loving my job,” she says. 

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