ATA/TCA unveils company driver tuition finance program

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The American Trucking Associations in cooperation with the Truckload Carriers Association has unveiled an initiative designed to provide financial assistance to men and women who wish to attend truck driver training schools, as part of ongoing efforts to reduce the nation’s shortage of longhaul truck drivers.

Known as the ATA/TCA Company Driver Tuition Finance Program, the plan partners motor carriers and lending institutions to provide low-interest financing to those who wish to attend a driver training school but otherwise might not be able to afford it.

“With such a critical driver shortage facing the industry, now, more than ever, trucking is consistently looking toward recruiting and retaining a pool of experienced workers,” says Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. “We’re leaving no stone unturned in our efforts to find new drivers, and this program allows us to reach out to those who want to become drivers but who without some sort of assistance might not be able to enter the profession.”

Under the program, motor carriers partner with a financial institution to obtain a low-interest line of credit on behalf of a student who has been qualified for admission by a truck driver training school. The motor carrier guarantees the student loan in exchange for his or her commitment to work for the motor carrier upon graduation.

The ATA/TCA Company Driver Tuition Finance Program is modeled after a financing program successfully piloted by Ray Kuntz, ATA vice chairman and Watkins Shepard Trucking CEO, as a means of addressing the company’s shortage of longhaul truck drivers. Truck driver training schools annually turn away hundreds of eligible driver candidates due to lack of funding or an inability to obtain loans, he said.

“The number of new drivers coming to us and that are ‘in the pipeline’ to become drivers is increasing every month,” Kuntz says. “Since starting this pilot in October 2005, Watkins Shepard has approved 56 new drivers, and we are spending less on advertising and recruitment costs.”