The Professional Truck Driver Institute has named David Heller director of PTDI and has recertified truck driver training programs in four schools. Despite a slow-growth economy, driver training program managers say they are benefiting from PTDI certification and seeing an increase in demand for their graduates.
“Because of the economy, companies naturally have become more selective, and we are seeing more and more requests for graduates of PTDI-certified courses,” says Harry Kowalchyk, president of National Tractor Trailer School Inc., which received five-year program recertifications for both its New York locations in Buffalo and Liverpool. “The cost of PTDI certification is strictly a cost of doing business for us.”
Kowalchyk notes a change in the demographics of their students, which is occurring nationwide. “We’re leaning more toward the mature worker, those who have been displaced as a result of a company downsizing, people transitioning from the military or other industry, and retired folks reentering the workplace to supplement their income,” Kowalchyk says. “Our student population has increased probably about 15 percent in the last year.”
Scott Barker, vice president of safety, recruiting and driver services for Swift Driving Academy – which received five-year recertification for its location in Millington, Tenn. – agrees. “Driver retention has improved as a result of the economy, and prospective drivers are coming into the industry from much different backgrounds,” Barker says. “People have been forced to change careers due to unemployment or underemployment, and while the economy adversely affected trucking, there is always a need for trucks and professional truck drivers. Our academy enrollment has been down over the past couple of years because of the great improvement in driver retention, but as the economy appears to be improving, our enrollment is increasing as well. Graduates face a brighter, more profitable future today than they might have a couple of years ago.”
All this is good news for PTDI-certified programs. According to Heller, with the current economic situation, “the benefits for drivers of PTDI-certified courses will increase, as carriers searching for the safe driver will be more selective and conscientious in choosing who they hire.”
Heller, who also serves as the Truckload Carriers Association’s director of safety and policy, sees PTDI “as the staple of truck driver training. PTDI is setting the bar and expects to maintain its high level of standards. It’s not about righting the ship – the ship has already been righted. It’s more about maintaining the status quo.”
“To have a benchmark to strive for, such as PTDI certification and national accreditation, should be the ultimate goal for any school that wants to provide the best possible educational experience to its students and the best drivers for the employers of future graduates,” says Kowalchyk, who has offered PTDI-certified courses since 1997. “From a recruiting standpoint, we see referrals being generated by people either contacting PTDI or checking the PTDI website and looking up certified programs. In a recent class, we started someone who saw us on the PTDI website. He chose to come to a school over 250 miles away based on this certification when there are many other options he could have chosen that would have been much closer.”
Barker also acknowledges that the economy does not affect Swift’s decision to acquire PTDI certification. “Swift has a 13-year relationship with PTDI, and we share the same commitment to high-quality consistent training for entry-level drivers,” he says. “The cost, time and effort related to PTDI certification are small in comparison to the benefits we gain in the form of our partnership with PTDI and the standards we share with them. We focus on best-in-class training no matter what the economy is doing, and in our opinion, PTDI is the recognized standard for quality driving academies like Swift.”
The American Institute of Technology’s location in Phoenix is the fourth program that received PTDI recertification in April.