Interest in learning how to drive a semi-truck surges

Classes for license booked 6 weeks out
Posted at 11:59 AM, Sep 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-10 17:46:48-04

TAMPA, Fla. — As more and more Americans face dire job prospects, many are choosing to earn a living on the road driving big rigs.

The trucking industry has seen a shortage of drivers in the past. With the COVID-19 pandemic upending our lives, many are now turning to trucking to feed their families.

"In 2018, the trucking industry was short roughly 60,800 drivers, which was up nearly 20% from 2017's figure of 50,700," according to the American Trucking Associations.

At a local school, more than 60 students are learning to drive tractor-trailers 12 hours a day, five days a week.

"We are trying to give them the tools to get into this trade and be successful," Director of Education for Tampa Truck Driving School, Kyle Willinsky said.

"We've probably gone up about 25% as far as interest in coming into this industry with everybody having issues getting their jobs where they are at and keeping what they are doing intact they are looking elsewhere to continue to make good money. You can make great money in this industry if you are willing to work a little harder than the next."

Willinsky said first-year drivers, willing to work hard, can rebound out of this pandemic.

"I would say first-year expectations are right around $50,000, and then after that, I know people who make $100,000 a year as a company driver," Willinsky said.

ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska spoke to student driver Charles West during his lunch break. West, 68, was laid off from his job in South Florida, driving a box truck. He wanted to upgrade to a Class A Commercial Driver's License.

"I'm doing this cause I'm not ready to give up work, yet I want to keep on going. I figure if I stop, I'm gonna die," West said. "There's still a lot of shortage of truck drivers. Look at the freight go in your grocery store see your shelves in there most of them are empty I don't care if you are shopping for groceries or clothes it's empty they need more drivers out there to push the goods."

Since we first interviewed West, he graduated and received his Class A CDL. He said he is looking forward to landing his first job and hitting the road.

Willinsky said demand continues to grow. Right now, classes are booked nearly a month and a half out.

"I've never seen a need for truck drivers more than I have now," Willinsky said.