LBCC’s First Truck Driver Program Graduates Will Fill Port Workforce Gaps


Left to right: Veronica Rodriguez, Workforce Development Program Specialist; Angelica Ito-Alvarez, graduate; Irene Guajaca, graduate; Todd Landacre, graduate; Mike Johnson, President of HTA; Scott Jakovich, Program Manager, Advanced Transportation and Security; Darryll Rea, graduate; Steven Goodwin, graduate; Eduardo Tapia-Flores, graduate; Joe Hernandez, Behind-the-Wheel Trainer at Professional Trucking. Photo courtesy of LBCC

Nine Long Beach City College graduates are headed for careers in the growing port-trucking industry this week thanks to a new driver training program created to fill workforce gaps left by stricter environmental and homeland security requirements. 

The one-of-a-kind Commercial Driver Training Program is a collaboration between LBCC and the Harbor Trucking Association and was funded by a $440,000, two-year grant from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office and supported by more than $450,000 in industry pledges.

It allows students to get enough training to bypass the two-year work experience requirement for HTA employers and was established with a goal of training and certifying a minimum of 100 new drivers during its two-year pilot period.

Of the nine current graduates, two are already employed and the remaining seven are expected to soon enter short-haul jobs servicing the ports.

“Thanks to our innovative partnership with the Harbor Trucking Association, we are committed to continue training our community to meet the increasing demands of our region, including the Port of Long Beach, the second busiest container port in the nation, which saw a dramatic increase in cargo earlier this year,” said Lou Anne Bynum, Executive Vice President of College Advancement and Economic Development. “Through our partnership with HTA, our students will now be an integral part of the freight business.”

{loadposition latestbusiness}Through classroom experience provided by trucking companies and current drivers, program graduates obtain a Class A California drivers licence and a Transportation Worker Identification Card, both of which are required for port jobs. They also earn a Hazardous Materials Endorsement and a completion certificate that proves their eligibility for employment.

This specialized workforce training program helps to address the shortage of licensed, short-haul truck drivers that are qualified to transport goods in and out of the local ports. Officials say that the number of qualified truck drivers dropped by more than 7000 in 2012, partly due to a Homeland Security regulation that now requires anyone accessing ports to have passed a background check and security clearance.

According to LBCC officials, short-haul trucker jobs, once immigrant and felony friendly, have become unattainable for many within the truck driver workforce.

The San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan has also had an affect on the local trucking industry by mandating that all trucks accessing the ports meet stringent federal 2007 emission standards. This has forced smaller trucking companies and owner/operators who are unable to update their fleets out of local goods transportation.

“There has been a significant driver shortage in the trucking industry throughout the nation for several months and this program is targeted at giving those individuals interested in logistics and driving a path forward,” said Fred Johring, Chairman of HTA. “We are proud to introduce the first class of new drivers to the drayage business, and look forward to partnering with them as they become the small businesses we rely on to haul freight.”

For more information on the Commercial Driver Training Program, call LBCC Workforce Development at (562) 938-3221.

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Sarah Bennett is a contributor to the Hi-lo and the editor-at-large at the Long Beach Post. She is also a professor at Santa Ana College where she was once a student before transferring to USC to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Sarah has written about music, art, food and beer in local, national and international publications for over a decade. An L.A. native and longtime resident of Long Beach, she is the co-founder of Long Beach Zine Fest and managing editor at theLAnd magazine. She never sleeps.