The Owensboro Riverport Authority board voted Wednesday to allow Owensboro Community & Technical College to use 1.76 vacant acres there as a training area for students seeking their commercial drivers license.

Mike Rodgers, chief institutional officer at OCTC, said the nation needs 90,000 more truck drivers this year and the need will grow to more than 100,000 in the next two years.

So, OCTC will launch its new four-week program in mid-October.

Rodgers said the new CDL Academy classes will last eight hours a day, with 1.5 weeks spent in the classroom and the rest of the time in either a simulator or a truck.

The Riverport property, which is on Rinaldo Road, will be used to teach the students how to hook and unhook a trailer, parallel park and back up to a loading dock, Rodgers said.

He said he expects six to 10 students in the first class and more as potential drivers learn about it.

The second class for new students will begin in January.

Rodgers said the college has purchased a simulator, two trucks and one trailer for the program.

He said the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last year that the median pay for heavy and tractor-trailer drivers is $22.66 an hour — $47,130 a year.

Rodgers said the CDL Academy wouldn’t be possible without the Riverport’s help.

“More than 70% of goods consumed in the U.S. are moved by truck,” he said. “It’s critical that we train more CDL drivers for these great job opportunities, which include both heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers for long-haul and local deliveries.”

Brian Wright, the Riverport’s president, said, “Now more than ever, America’s economy depends on qualified truck drivers to transport freight and keep supply chains moving. It’s particularly true for ORA, where our clients depend heavily on their commodities being delivered by truck each and every day.”

“The trucking field has traditionally been comprised of male drivers. However, a new American driver is emerging with individuals of all ages, gender and ethnicity increasingly hitting the highways,” said Cindy Fiorella, OCTC vice president of Workforce Solutions. “We encourage anyone seeking a dynamic, high-paying career to contact us to learn more about the wide range of employment within the trucking industry.”

For more information, to enroll or to learn about potential financial aid and scholarship support, contact Amee Payne at 270-686-3786 or amee.payne@kctcs.edu.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com.

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