U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg chatted with Daryl McLendon about how he learned about Prince George’s Community College’s Commercial Driver’s License program.
“I looked it up online,” said McClendon, a student in the college’s CDL training program. “I went to the P.G. County website and looked for CDL. I saw the training and then called the [school’s] office.”
Buttigieg visited the college Wednesday not only to promote job opportunities in the trucking industry, but also to bring a big $173,640 check for the school. The money will help at least 50 students to obtain a CDL license and learn the trucking industry tuition free.
Buttigieg also brought a bigger check at $197,410 for the Community College of Baltimore County.
The money comes from the transportation agency’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to help community colleges enroll students interested in the trucking industry.
There’s a nationwide shortage of 80,000 truck drivers and the federal government is working to attract students who are current or former military personnel and their spouses to the industry.
“I’m not saying you need to have been driving a vehicle around Afghanistan or Iraq to be a great truck driver, but I do know the kinds of people who wore our country’s uniform are among the kinds of people we need to be calling into this vitally important work,” said Buttigieg, who served for six years in the Navy Reserves. “I often remind people if you enjoyed the food you had for breakfast this morning, the clothes that you are wearing right now, or the phone in your pocket, you have a whole bunch of truck drivers to thank for getting them to you.”
The funding, which officials touted as stemming from the Biden administration’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, will also allow community colleges to enroll students from underserved communities, or those working part-time.
Gov. Wes Moore (D) experienced a bit of CDL training Wednesday as a passenger inside a 10-wheeler truck with instructor Juan Carlos Sanchez Solares.
A student must possess a valid driver’s license, pass a federal Department of Transportation physical and medical examination.
The Prince George’s college’s CDL program train students to operate tractor trailers, cement and dump trucks, passenger buses and utility vehicles. Students can obtain a Class A or Class B license. One major difference according to the state Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration: Class A drivers can tow any trailer no matter the weight, but a Class B license operator must tow a trailer that’s 10,000 pounds or less.
Moore noted that students are often quickly employed after receiving certification.
“We want to let people know that these are good, strong quality employment opportunities,” he said. “This is a tremendous pathway for families, and we want to make sure more and more families know about it and taking advantage of it.”
As for McLendon, he said he completes his entry-level training this month and then transitions into road work. He drove military vehicles when he served in the Marine Corps Reserves.
He worked as an information technology professional but is currently a contractor who soon wants “to own my own rig.”