Funds Help OCtech Grow Truck Driver Training Program

Pictured are, from left, Faith McCurry, dean of planning, research and development at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College; Dr. Walt Tobin, OCtech president; Dr. Margaret Felder Wilson, vice chair of the OCtech Area Commission; Sen. Brad Hutto; Donna Elmore, OCtech vice president for academic affairs; and Kim Huff, OCtech vice president of business affairs.

Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College has received more than $400,000 from the S.C. General Assembly to revamp and expand its Professional Truck Driver Training program.

State Sen. Brad Hutto was on campus Wednesday, Dec. 13, to present the college with a check for $423,129. The money will be used to hire two additional CDL instructors, purchase two new trucks for the college and expand existing infrastructure for the program.

OCtech currently enrolls 52 students in its truck driving program. With the additional funds, the college will have the capacity to more than double its enrollment to 120 students.

In October, the American Trucking Associations released a report warning that the nation’s trucking industry could be short 50,000 drivers by the end of 2017 and more than 174,000 by 2026. In a study prepared last year for the S.C. General Assembly, the state Department of Transportation reported a 10 percent vacancy rate for its 2,500 positions requiring a CDL. SCDOT is just one of the thousands of private businesses and public service agencies statewide that require CDL holders.

“I have talked with several industries in the area, and they keep telling me they need truck drivers. They can’t get enough truck drivers,” Hutto said. “This is a career where people can get trained relatively quick, get in the job market and make good money.”

OCtech currently operates a fleet of six aged trucks in its certificate program, which has been cited by the state’s technical college system and the South Carolina Trucking Association as a “best practice” for meeting the critical need for truck drivers in the Palmetto State. The program operates day and evening and has had to turn away students due to limited faculty resources and available equipment. Last year, it became one of the first truck driver training programs in the nation to become Pell Grant eligible.

“The program is 16 weeks and now includes courses in electronic logging and the business of truck driving,” said Donna Elmore, vice president for academic affairs at the college. “Individuals in the program receive their CDL permit after the first two weeks, and they drive the rest of the time and earn their CDL by the end of the semester.”