Photo: Mark Wemple
Tra Williams is the owner and CEO of the Sarasota-based truck-driving school FleetForce.
Economic Backbone: Transportation/Trade/Logistics
Keep on Truckin'
FleetForce is expanding in Florida this spring with six new training and testing centers. The truck-driving school, based in Sarasota, projects it will be able to graduate 3,000 commercial drivers annually, to help reduce a shortage that trucking trade experts say is close to 80,000 nationally. FleetForce’s new centers will be at colleges in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Niceville, Daytona Beach, Ocala and New Port Richey. It also has operations in Winter Haven, Venice, Palm City, Lake City and Gainesville.
The American Trucking Associations, a coalition of 50 state associations, estimated in a 2019 analysis that the shortage will grow to 160,000 by 2028, accounting for population growth and high attrition in the aging workforce. Florida has 48,000 commercial drivers but needs many more, says Alix Miller, president and CEO of the Florida Trucking Association. “We are a consumer state. We will never have enough,” she says. To recruit new drivers faster, the industry is working to appeal to a more diverse pool of candidates, especially women, who represent less than 10%, and young people. Miller says the average full-time driver salary is $85,000 natonally and $50,000 in Florida, while owner-operators can easily make $200,000.
Last fall, the state allocated $8.2 million in workforce funding to expand commercial driver training programs at colleges in Fort Lauderdale, Niceville, Orlando, Daytona Beach and Bradenton. The funding is expected to add capacity for 1,200 additional graduates annually.