With truckers in short supply, new grads at Fayetteville school ready to hit the roads

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- As truck drivers in Canada continue to protest COVID-19 mandates, closer to home, a Cumberland County trucking school instructor is helping to graduate new drivers -- and remaining hopeful for change to come.

"I start on Monday at Taylors Express in Hope Mills," said Matt Canady.

Fresh off graduation and ready to start work, Canady and Aaron Gardener just wrapped up the CDL program at Fayetteville Community College.

And now, they will hit the open road in a career that needs them more now than ever. They understand the pressure to perform.

"Some guys will be out for two to three weeks at a time making that sacrifice to make sure the shelves are stocked," Canady said.

Gardener added: "When making your deliveries on time, plan, plan, plan. It's all about planning.'

An absence of drivers is fueling supply chain issues. The demand is high, but the number of drivers joining the ranks is still low.

Eric Smith is their instructor.

"You may go work for a company with particular rules you may not like, but you still have to follow them," Smith said.

Smith warns his students of every possible scenario, such as the one playing out just across the border in Canada where drivers are protesting COVID vaccine mandates and creating blockades on the border, keeping some goods from entering or leaving Canada and the United States,

In the U.S. vaccine mandates vary from company to company.

"If you don't want to abide by their rules, you may need to find a new place to be employed," Smith said.

Smith knows dozens of his students will hit the roads soon after graduation but he said he knows few will stick with the job long term.

But their help is needed in the short term.

Richard Woollery is two years into the gig, and he's learned some lessons. For him, he said he understands safety rules and company policies, and the importance of getting his precious cargo where it is going.

"If you don't love it, you're not going to stay in it, and I love it, and I can't wait to go back out," Woollery said with a laugh.

Though the American Trucking Association does not mandate vaccines for companies and drivers, it strongly advises those on the road to consider getting vaccinated if they haven't already.
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