Free truck driving course expands to Bangor to tackle nationwide shortage

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Due to the growing need for commercial truck drivers in the Bangor area, two community colleges have teamed up to offer a successful southern Aroostook County course for free.

In conjunction with Eastern Maine Community College, Northern Maine Community College will expand its eight-week driving academy to Bangor with funding from the Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan, as well as the Harold Alfond Center for the Advancement of Maine’s Workforce.

Northern Maine Community College’s Commercial Driving Academy has been training truck drivers for more than 30 years at its Almost Isle campus. But driver shortages across the state, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, have left employers scrambling to transport goods.

The course will be free for selected trainees with the goal of increasing the number of qualified and licensed drivers for Bangor-area employers, said Leah Buck, assistant dean of continuing education at the Près Isle campus.

The EMMC campus expansion is a temporary relocation for a few months, Buck said. The nearly Isle instructors will travel to Bangor to deliver three consecutive eight-week courses. The first starts on Monday, May 16.

Organizing the course in a short amount of time was tough, but they’re ready to go, Buck said.

“Good trucking jobs are easy to find right now. Good pay and benefits are the norm,” she said.

The Commercial Driving Academy began in 1986. Current Commercial Driving License Coordinator Dennis Dyer has been with the program for over 21 years and Buck has been involved since 1995.

Maine has a long history of trucking in logging, agriculture and other industries, but the past two years have really highlighted the importance of commercial drivers, Dyer said.

“We are seeing graduates being approached with multiple job offers locally, regionally and nationally,” he said.

More than 1,200 students have taken the course and earned their business license, Buck said. Many employers contact the NMCC seeking graduates from the program, and some students have multiple job openings to choose from after completing the training.

The class focuses on Class A commercial driving, which includes semi-trailer trucks 26,000 pounds and over. The program includes double and triple trucks, tank trucks, air brakes and hazmat training, giving students the opportunity to earn endorsements and expand the types of vehicles they can drive, Buck said.

“They are hard working professionals who are rewarded for making smart decisions, whether as a long haul driver, local deliveries, hauling logs or the hundreds of other opportunities that can develop for someone. one with a good attitude and a willingness to work,” she says.

Dyer is one of the few instructors in the state to teach other commercial driver’s license instructors through a 48-hour course that offers a classroom teaching credential. The state asked the NMCC to offer this training several years ago based on the course’s strong reputation around the state and student success stories, Buck said.

There are many career choices with a commercial license today, and the salary that professional drivers receive is higher than a few years ago. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that commercial truck drivers in the United States earn an average salary of over $50,000 in 2021, with the Maine average being $46,000.

But strong demand for long-haul truckers and other specialists has pushed many salaries to more than $100,000, according to NMCC officials.

After the three courses in Bangor, the Commercial Driving Academy will return to Près Isle in September.

Interested applicants can learn more by visiting nmcc.edu or contacting program coordinator Leah Buck at 207-768-2768 or emailing [email protected]

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