Eye on KELOLAND: Recruiting truck drivers

Eye on KELOLAND

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Sioux Falls area construction companies desperate for truck drivers are shelling out money to get people trained up and behind the wheel.

Thanks to a partnership between the Associated General Contractors of South Dakota and Southeast Tech, someone looking for a new career can enroll in a class and get help towards picking up a Class B Commercial Driver License.

After driving bus for Sioux Area Metro for more than a decade, Amy Costa is now the proud captain of this dump truck. She says learning how to operate the equipment has been a fun experience.

“I was a little bit nervous at first. Just a tiny bit but like I said, the training is good here. They don’t let you out until you’re ready,” Costa said.

Costa kept her Class B CDL from her days of driving bus. She left that field to take a chance at office life but ended up missing the road.

“Got into management. Realized it wasn’t a good fit for me. I kept my CDL because in my heart I knew I would go back to it because I enjoyed it so much,” Costa said.

Costa now works for Asphalt Surfacing Company. President Travis Haarsma is more than happy to have her as a member of the shop.

“Any given day in Sioux Falls, there can be 100-150-200 trucks out working. Doing construction, doing anything. Driving buses, garbage trucks. There’s a large, large demand for truck drivers,” Haarsma said.

Haarsma says for every one to two operators on a construction site, there can be anwhere from 3-7 truck drivers needed. With a shortage, businesses are working together to share drivers with each other.

Haarsma says for too long people haven’t thought of the job as a well-paying career path and that needs to change.

“My generation grew up with our parents all telling us that we should go to college, go to college, go to college. So then it kind of created a vacuum in the skilled-labor workforce that we’re starting to realize more and more,” Haarsma said.

“Having a CDL has just opened so many doors,” Costa said.

More drivers like Costa are needed. That’s why ASCO and a bunch of other companies are teaming up with Southeast Tech to get more people qualified for their Class B CDL.

Southeast Tech is now offering a Class B CDL exam preparation class.

“We’ll put them on during their training period working for us. Then once they get their CDL, then we will reimburse the cost of the class over a certain amount of months they continue working for us,” Haarsma said.

Haarsma says drivers can make more than $17 an hour depending on their previous experience.

“Programs like this get the word out that this is a good career. You can forgo a lot of college debt and get right into the workforce and your lifetime earning can be right there with most people that went to college,” Haarsma said.

Getting behind the wheel can be just a starting point with a company as well.

“I have drivers that drive one day and then the next day they could be running a piece of equipment and vice versa,” Haarsma said.

Costa digs her current gig. She does have plans to work towards getting her Class A license down the line which will open her up to working with bigger trucks and trailers.

“You kind of get to work on your own but as a team as well. So you get the best of both worlds. As you know, the pay is good. The benefits are good,” Costa said.

“This is the time to do it. You get that program going for you to help you out. You can’t really beat it right now,” Costa said.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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