• Mon. Oct 3rd, 2022

Labor boards provide trucking funds for driver training

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Two Oregon trucking executives are on a mission to encourage motor carriers to follow their lead and join shadowy local entities called labor commissions, which over the years have quietly doled out millions of dollars to train a range of skilled and unskilled workers, including truck drivers. .

The quest of one trucking leader, Andrew Owens, CEO of Glendale, Oregon-based A&M Transport, began in 2015 when he was visited by a local politician asking for a favor. The politician, County Commissioner of Southwest Oregon, was not calling the third-generation trucker to contribute to his campaign, put up posters in the courtyards or call friends with big wallets. She just wanted him to sit on a local labor council — a council that this year alone paid $440,000 in tuition to train 80 truckers.

“I had no idea what I was getting into,” Owens recalled. “But the more I got into it, the more I loved it. I also found I could make a difference.

Mike Card was appointed to a workforce council and began encouraging other members to help trucking address the driver shortage. (Transport topics)

Since then, Owens has helped convince fellow board members of the Southwestern Oregon Workforce Investment Board to support grants to pay tuition for men and women qualified to become truck drivers.

About three years ago, Owens encouraged fellow Oregon trucking executive Mike Card, CEO of Bend, Oregon-based Combined Transport Inc., to seek a position on a neighboring board called the Rogue (County) Workforce Partnership Workforce Board to join the mission.

“I had heard about this US Department of Labor workforce program that offered free money to train new employees,” Card said. “They had these so-called ‘manpower commissions’ that were literally pumping money into health care systems to train nurses.”

Card was named to the board of directors and began encouraging other members to help trucking address the driver shortage.

Owens and Card are motivated, as both said they had trucks parked because they couldn’t find drivers.

“If you want to talk about what keeps you up at night is when I know I have 10% of my 120 trucks parked because I don’t have drivers,” Owens said. “It gives you a little indigestion. The bank doesn’t care if I have drivers, they always want their payment every month.

He added: “Labour commissions are not going to solve the driver shortage. But it can certainly help point everyone in the right direction and ensure adequate funding.

Card said: “If every region of the country had truckers working with a workforce council, getting tuition paid, getting more people into the pipeline, that would help the whole industry. This would help us keep our businesses healthy.

The precise amount of federal funds earmarked for driver education by the two Oregon boards is difficult to determine, but on a combined basis, Owens and Card have actively advanced hundreds of full tuition scholarships – each totaling up to $5,500 – for applicants interested in becoming a truck driver.

Now the two are asking other truckers to follow in their footsteps. “We’re just trying to find people who will get off the couch” and help, Card said.

Labor Development Councils have existed since 1998, when Congress passed the Labor Investment Law. It was updated in 2014 by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

Owens said the trucking industry has failed to take advantage of the potentially large stream of funding to train truck drivers — but it needs to.

American Trucking Associations supports the idea.

Nick Geale

Geale

“I commend Andy and Mike for their involvement in their local workforce council and the great opportunities they are helping to provide the next generation of truckers in Oregon,” said Nick Geale, Vice President of the ATA’s workforce policy. “Given the supply chain challenges and labor shortages the industry has faced while continuing to supply the U.S. economy on a daily basis, ATA President Chris Spear, m asked to promote greater involvement of the ATA in national workforce development. We are starting to see results with many levels of government listening and working to support our vital industry. »

“It’s an incredible system that I don’t think a lot of people know about,” added Kyle Stevens, executive director of the Southwestern Oregon Workforce Investment Board. “There is something to be said for the involvement of companies in the system. If they are not aware and are not represented on the councils, it is difficult for the councils to know how important an issue is.

Stevens said his council since July has distributed about $440,000 to train 80 truck drivers in his three-county area. Funds include training as well as the cost of a drug and physical test. “I currently have the funds to train an additional 325 truckers over two years. If we continue to find people who want to drive, we’ll fill those spots,” Stevens said.

In total, Stevens said his labor council has about $2.5 million in annual federal and state funds to distribute to various industry sectors. “Our target sectors are healthcare, manufacturing, hospitality and recreation, construction, child care and transportation,” Stevens said.

“Right now transport seems to be the hottest. They’re short of drivers. People are interested in getting CDL training. It’s a quick turnaround. You make a difference in someone’s life in four or five weeks – and then he works.

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There are approximately 550 labor councils across the country, dotting virtually every region of every state. Oregon has nine labor boards, but not all of them have members from the trucking industry. Larger states may have more labor commissions. California, for example, has 45.

According to a study conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, the majority of councils have between 26 and 40 members. According to Mathematica, they typically include senior and middle managers, with hiring authority, as well as professionals who bring specific skills needed to the board. By law, the majority of the board must be made up of representatives of the local business community. Most councils meet four to six times a year.

Owens thinks many truckers don’t know about local workforce investment boards. During a presentation on workforce advice he and Card gave at an ATA conference last year, Owens asked a room full of more than 200 truckers how much they knew labor advice. “I counted all the hands that went up on just one of my hands,” he said.

Both men said it was not easy to learn the intricacies of federal funding flows.

“It took me a while to learn to connect the dots, and it frustrated me to work in a government entity,” Owens said. “I’m one of those guys who make up their minds and want to see results maybe this afternoon or tomorrow. In government, it doesn’t work that way. It takes months to bring the temperature up. Competing interests within a typical council can sometimes challenge a council member’s powers of persuasion, he added.

But Stevens noted that if two or three trucking companies join forces to present their needs to a board, they’re welcome at the meetings — even if they’re not members.

“We just try to make the best decisions with the money,” he said. “If someone comes to see us from the outside, we will listen. There will be no workforce council that will say no.

James Fong, executive director of the Rogue Workforce Council, said transportation is his council’s second largest area of ​​investment, just after training certified nursing assistants. He noted that Card and Owens said there were not enough members on transportation sector boards.

“Transportation is a hot topic right now, especially with all the supply chain issues,” Fong said. “But I think before it even hit the fan, Andy and Mike would come up to us and say that artificial intelligence and autopilot is 10 years away. Even then, we’re still going to need drivers to escort these vehicles in the cities.

Owens said the 30,000 foot vision of a workforce council is to understand “what the industry needs, what sectors are in your area, and then coordinate funding and try to train a workforce that businesses need in your region.

ATA’s Geale said interested parties can locate their local workforce board on the Workforce Development Board Finder at careeronestop.org, or contact them or their state trucking association.