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2023 - Driving Demand: ECC prepares truckers for the long haul

Tags: Academics
Published 06/26/2023

The truck driving industry is experiencing a shortage of an estimated 70,000 qualified drivers, a number expected to double within the next decade, according to American Trucking Associations. "Nearly everything you can touch, wear, and consume that is a part of your daily lives was on a truck at some point," said Todd Anderson, director of Elgin Community College's Truck Driving Program. The need for safe, trained drivers to meet our economy’s demand hovers near a historic high.  

With Elgin Community College’s expanded truck driving program, including accelerated sessions, newly hired instructors, and plans for a larger facility, ECC is ready to meet that demand.

ECC's new 8-week CDL program will train students for the road in less time. This shorter program provides the same comprehensive training, smaller class sizes, and behind-the-wheel training with experienced, dedicated instructors as the 16-week program. "We did not give up quality," said Anderson. "We still conduct a 320-hour program — significantly more hours than other colleges and for-profit programs. The more hours we spend with our students, the more we can provide a learning environment that functions at a safe, steadier pace, giving them the experience necessary to feel ready to be on the road as truck drivers."

In addition to accelerated training, ECC now offers daytime sections along with traditional evening classes. This expansion is partly due to ECC's partnership with the Kane County Office of Community Reinvestment and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), a federally funded program helping students start, continue, or finish their education. Because of WIOA, the program opened up access to more students. "This program was challenging, but thanks to the support from my instructors and classmates, I was able to make it and achieve my CDL," said Jose Tavera, a graduate of the first 8-week section.

With the program expansion and WIOA's support, ECC increased capacity by 200%. As the program looks to continue serving its students well and meet industry demand, the future facility will feature more classrooms and simulator space.

ECC's program provides a smaller student-to-instructor ratio than most, with 2-3 students per truck and instructor. The college also takes a 'grow-your-own' approach to recruit new instructors and meet the needs of the expanding program. ECC recently hired its first full-time female truck driving instructor, alumnae Sharla Suggs, '20, and three new female adjunct instructors. "The instructors here care about their students and care that they are putting good drivers on the road. However, I didn't see many people like myself. I saw this as an opportunity to step into a new role and represent women in trucking," said Suggs.

"This was an amazing class and could not have been better," said Frank Dean, another graduate of the first 8-week section. "These instructors have been in the industry and bring decades of experience. ECC's program has everything you need to become a professional CDL driver. I received two job offers one week after obtaining my license."