Northeast Pennsylvania is the trucking hub for a large region of the United States. Companies across the Marcellus shale are moving materials all the time, enforcing the need for CDL drivers. Eastern Freight Systems of Tunkhannock is helping meet this need with trailer donations for the Susquehanna County Career & Technology Center.
SCCTC opened their CDL Training Center last summer for students to become certified drivers and fill positions in the industry. Eastern’s trailer donations consisted of two 53-foot van trailers available for instruction and practice.
Eastern is a division of Holcombe Energy Resource. Between them, they have about 25 drivers on the road at any given time. However, keeping truckers behind the wheel is a challenge for many companies. Currently, the only training centers in the area are in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties.
“We were at the back door waiting to get whoever we could,” Matt Austin, manager of both companies, recalled. Eastern previously loaned the school a van to help jumpstart the program. “We’ve already benefited a lot from it,” Austin said of the company hiring men and women directly from the school upon their certification.
The new vans are 13’6” high and afford the students an experience beyond what would be needed in the gas fields. “Vans work well for the DOT test,” Austin remarked. “A 53-foot trailer turns more slowly and gives the driver time to respond. It takes awhile to get used to it as they are turning the wheel.” SCCTC Executive Director, Alice Davis, is excited that Eastern is more directly involved to the school, noting that Austin is also on the Center’s advisory committee. “Input from employers is invaluable to the instructors,” she noted.
Monetary and materials contributions are equally crucial to SCCTC, Davis explained. Holcombe, Eastern, Cabot, and Brand Graphic Solutions shared the costs of applying logos to the trailers and the words “Student Driver” on the rear of the van.
“Every time someone donates something to us, we can save the students money,” said Davis. The trailers also give the CDL students an edge on those at other training centers, she maintains. “Even hooking up or conducting a pre-trip inspection. There’s so much that goes into it that the average person wouldn’t realize. And we want it to be known that we put qualified drivers out there.”
Eight new students began a new training session on January 4. The normal class size was 12, but fewer students allows for better safe-distancing practices in the classroom. Davis hopes that more students can be accommodated when the pandemic recedes and noted that night classes will resume in the spring when days are longer.
Austin says that Eastern would like to make another donation to the school in the coming year—perhaps a flatbed trailer or a water tanker. In the meantime, he is proud to see the trailers on the road, knowing that the student drivers are working toward family-sustaining careers.