Program Provides Free Training, Enables Students to Earn an Income While Learning New Profession, Creates Local Jobs and New Careers for People from Diverse Backgrounds
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - December 13, 2011 - In an era of weak economic growth and stubbornly high unemployment, one business isn’t relying on government stimulus to put people back to work. It has so far created 500 new jobs through an innovative program that turns out highly trained and skilled professionals – and even pays them while they train.
That business is national trucking company Con-way Freight, which last month graduated the 500th candidate from its driver training schools program. The program, provided at no cost to students, was launched in March 2010 and today operates in 84 cities across the U.S. The schools are conducted at the company’s service centers and provide both classroom and behind-the-wheel training, enabling graduates to obtain their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and join the ranks of the company’s 14,000 professional driver sales representatives.
One unique aspect of the 12-week program is that students work in paid part-time positions as dockworkers while attending class, enabling them to earn a living while learning their new profession.
“We are both making an investment – the student in the time and energy they commit to the program, and the company in creating and administering the curriculum and training. We each have skin in the game,” says Bob Petrancosta, Con-way Freight’s vice president of safety, who started his career with the company as a driver 28 years ago. “Safety is priority number one at Con-way Freight and through this program, we know we are putting to work highly-trained professional drivers whose foremost commitment is to provide our customers with the safest possible service.”
Classroom and field study covers federal and state highway laws, regulatory policy, safety compliance, proper commercial vehicle safety inspection and defensive driving skills. In addition to 80 hours of classroom study, students spend 160 supervised hours behind the wheel with a company driver-trainer, piloting trucks first around training courses on company property and later in regular operating conditions through hills, on freeways and in local urban traffic.
Once students complete the program, graduate and pass their state license exam, they are promoted to full-time and given a driving assignment. Students pay nothing for the training, whereas commercial for-profit truck driver training schools will charge between $4,000 and $6,000 for tuition.
In the first year, driving school graduates can expect to earn on average between $45,000 and $55,000, depending on work assignment, in addition to a comprehensive benefits package and a profit-sharing program. To date, the program has a 90 percent retention rate.
Con-way Freight started the driving schools in response to a persistent industry shortage of qualified drivers – which is expected to worsen. Studies project the trucking industry will face a shortage of 135,000 drivers by the end of the 2012 first quarter. Even with high unemployment, driving jobs were going unfilled for weeks at a time. “We needed qualified drivers, and with the lack of supply in the market, we decided to create a program where, in essence, we could grow our own,” notes Petrancosta. “By providing comprehensive training combined with a way to earn a wage while learning, we made it more attractive for people to consider this as a profession. This is the right program at the right time and the response has been terrific.”
Candidates come from all walks of life. Two years ago, then 24-year-old Duncan Smith graduated from State University of New York at Fredonia with a bachelor’s degree in legal studies. Unable to land a job in his field of study, he found work part time with the U.S Census Bureau and then in a steel mill. He learned about Con-way’s program online, applied in Buffalo, NY and was accepted. “I didn’t know the first thing about trucking,” Smith said. “But as I learned about the business, and especially how to drive a truck, which is really fun, I realized it could be a great career. It’s a critical service for the community.” Smith plans to stick with driving for a while but may look into future career advancement opportunities with Con-way’s management training programs.
45-year-old Terry McKinney had spent the last 20 years as a union sheet metal worker. Then the economy went south. He came in to work one day and was told he no longer had a job. “I thought I’d take that job right into retirement,” he recalls. A Veteran who served with the U.S. Marines, he was in a transportation platoon and had driven trucks years ago in the military. “I had a couple of friends who had CDLs, one who just went through the Con-way student program in Indianapolis,” he says. McKinney applied, got accepted, and subsequently graduated “Top Gun” in his class – a designation given to the student who achieves the highest graduating score. “It was more demanding than I thought. When we graduated and got our diplomas there was real sense of achievement.”
When 50-year-old Nathaniel Humphrey was laid off from his job in financial services, he found work first driving a bus and later a delivery van for a home improvement store. He discovered Con-way’s program online and applied at the company’s Birmingham, AL service center. “Driving a truck appealed to me, I’d done some previously,” he said “The training was very thorough. I had great instructors and classmates, we had great rapport and all pushed each other to succeed. When we went through graduation and I got my diploma, it was a real accomplishment. I wanted a good, stable job where I was excited to come to work every day and felt I could make a difference. That’s what Con-way provided.” Humphrey also graduated “Top Gun” in his class. It was Humphrey’s second diploma. He received his first one 25 years ago from the University of Alabama, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
Con-way Freight operates its driving schools as regional and local needs dictate. Programs at each service center are conducted at Con-way facilities using Con-way equipment and veteran, senior drivers as instructors. For information on future driving school classes, call (734) 757-1294 or visit the Careers page on Con-way’s website at http://www.con-way.com/en/careers/driver-careers/.
Follow Con-way Freight on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ConwayInc.
About Con-way Freight
Con-way Freight is the industry’s leading less-than-truckload (LTL) freight transportation company, providing guaranteed, day-definite regional and transcontinental service with exception-free delivery, on-time service performance and faster transit times through a single, unified network of more than 300 service centers in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Con-way Freight offers LTL freight transportation across North America and through Global LTLTM delivery in the United States from around the world. Global solutions include international less-than-container (LCL) ocean shipments from Asia through its OceanGuaranteed® service; U.S. and Europe delivery for inbound and outbound international cargoes through an exclusive alliance with TNT; direct service to more than 30 Bahamian and Caribbean ports through TropicalDirectSM; and domestic offshore transportation to Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Based in Ann Arbor, Mich., Con-way Freight is a certified FAST highway carrier and is C-TPAT/PIP, ACE- and CSA-certified.
Con-way Freight is a subsidiary of Con-way Inc. (NYSE:CNW), a $5 billion diversified freight transportation and logistics services company. For more information, visit www.con-way.com/en/freight.