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Memphis could offer answer to truck driving shortage

Wednesday, 31 July, 2019

Truck Drivers Program in Memphis

 

A Memphis training institute stepped up last year to address an enormous, nationwide truck driver shortage. Olympic Career Training Institute opened a four-week, “no worries” driver certification program to the public that pays rent, utilities and other bills while students undergo full-time training. Olympic previously only offered an internal program for a single firm.

“What we’re offering now is pretty much no excuse,” said Trey Carter, who founded the institute in 2010 with Kimberley Byrd. “You pay us back out of the wages you receive after you get your first job.”

Clearly, Olympic is confident the students will find a job. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the country is short at least 75,000 truck drivers, which causes delays of deliveries. In that kind of climate, anyone with a decent driving record who is properly trained and certified is gold, officials said. Starting pay sits at about $50,000, but can go higher.


According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the country is short at least 75,000 truck drivers, which causes delays of deliveries. In that kind of climate, anyone with a decent driving record who is properly trained and certified is gold, officials said. Starting pay sits at about $50,000, but can go higher.


As president of the institute, an approved Labor Department training provider, Carter believes the shortage is due to the negative image of truck driving “though it pays well and you get to see the country,” he said.

Bill Phillips, however, believes the shortage is related to the health of the economy. As founder of Heartland Transportation, Phillips hires from Olympic’s graduates.

“The economy is improving at a record rate when it comes to tonnage shipped. It’s supply and demand,” said Phillips, who’s been in the transportation business 33 years. “There’s a massive shortage of quality drivers. This is the worst I’ve seen it.”

Olympic’s program accepts 10 people a week so that in a month’s time the institute is training 40 students at staggered levels of instruction. The classes walk students through “key competencies” that conclude with a CDL test – a commercial driver’s license exam. The closest testing site was in Nashville, Carter said, until Olympic received approval to offer it. That makes it much easier on drivers who don’t have to rent a truck and get a properly licensed driver to travel so far away with them.

Carter decided to offer the driver certification program after getting several inquiries from students in other courses, after reflecting on the shortage, and after considering Memphis’ position as the nation’s distribution hub. With a background in logistics, personnel services and staffing, Carter began to dream big. Perhaps, he said, Olympic’s certification program will be the beginning of something big for Memphis.

“Why don’t we become a distribution training capital in the United States?” he said.


This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of Crossroads magazine. Greater Memphis Chamber staff contributed to the updated article. Photography by Isaac Singleton. 

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