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Buttigieg visits LCCC; discusses truck driver shortage

Lehigh Carbon Community College hosted U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg Aug. 9 to discuss the nation’s shortage of truck drivers.

“Truck drivers are finally well-understood to be the essential workers they have always been in our supply chains and our economy,” Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg and U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pa. 7, observed the college’s Commercial Driver License training program and talked with students, before announcing funding for the college to teach veterans interested in a career in trucking.

LCCC will receive $193,677 from the Commercial Motor Vehicle Operator Safety Training Grant this year, enabling veterans, their spouses and underserved groups to get the cost of their CDL training covered 100 percent.

The country has an estimated shortage of 80,000 truck drivers and more leaving the industry each year, Buttigieg said.

The Biden administration wants to recruit some of the quarter-million veterans returning to civilian life each year to help close that gap.

“We owe it to them that when they come home, they can get the training they need to get good-paying civilian jobs,” Buttigieg said.

The bipartisan infrastructure act included $3 million for the grant program. Wild said it is important to support veterans transitioning back into civilian life, and use the knowledge they’ve gained.

“Programs like this are essential to ensuring that we serve those who have served us,” she said.

Veterans currently make up about one-sixth of the 120 new truck drivers trained each year at Lehigh Carbon Community College. The college is in the process of increasing how many students it can train during each four-week session.

Through a contractor, CC Training, LCCC trains students from Lehigh, Carbon and Tamaqua to get them ready for their Commercial Drivers License test.

“Once you’ve got that license, you’ve got the ability to go to work,” Mike Glanz, director of CC Training said.

The college has received grants to help veterans get their CDL in the past. The new funding helps cover the rising cost of CDL training, which has been driven by the cost of diesel fuel.

Matthew Marcano, a military veteran, got his CDL through LCCC. He said the grant helped him find a way to use the skills he learned while serving in the Navy.

“I have a new opportunity and chance to provide for my family,” he said.

The grant helped Russell Lande, a Coast Guard veteran and driver for FedEx. He spoke with pride about having the chance to help transport baby formula to the Lehigh Valley during a recent shortage. He said he wouldn’t have taken the chance of becoming a truck driver if not for the grant program.

“That grant is not just about the veterans, it affects so many others,” Lande said.

PRESS PHOTO BY CHRIS REBER U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg speaks at Lehigh Carbon Community College.