Published: 09-23-2022

Pensacola State College officially cut the ribbon on its newest site – the Truck Driver Training Facility – on Tuesday, Sept. 20.

Located at 5957 Jeff Ates Road in the Santa Rosa Industrial Park East in Milton, the $7.8 million Truck Driver Training Facility will be home to the College’s Commercial Vehicle Driver Vocational Certificate Program.

“There’s a huge need. Our nation’s economy is dependent upon having well-trained truck drivers, and this training facility will help PSC to expand to fill that critical shortage in the industry,” said PSC President Ed Meadows.

“This facility will allow the Pensacola State to increase student capacity and train even more truck drivers to meet the needs in our region and state.”

Since Spring 2021, 69 students have completed the College’s truck driving training program and earned commercial driver’s licenses (CDL). The College started the program in 2019. Students drive at least 1,000 miles during training.

When students complete the 320-hour Commercial Vehicle Driving course, they can be tested at the new site to earn a Florida Class A Commercial Driver License. Salaries for truck drivers range from $48,000 to over $100,000 a year depending on the company and type of truck.

On hand for the ribbon cutting were Robert “Bob” Cole, Santa Rosa County District 2 Commissioner; Grover Robinson IV, mayor of Pensacola; Shannon Ogletree, director of Santa Rosa Economic Development; David Bear, chair of the Triumph Gulf Coast Board of Directors; Gregory Vaday, representative of the Florida Economic Development, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Katie Doughty, Northwest Florida District director, office of U.S. Sen. Rick Scott; Margie Moore, chair, Pensacola State College Board of Trustees; Michael Listau, department chair of PSC Workforce and Technical Programs; and PSC training program faculty members – Andre The, Paul James and Timothy O’Shields.

Sitting on a 15-acre parcel in the industrial park, the 13,000-square-foot CDL training and testing facility and driving range was funded by a $3.8 million Triumph Gulf Coast grant, a $1.6 million U.S. Department of Commerce grant, as well as state and local money. Construction on the facility began in September 2021.

The truck driving program received other matching funds ─ a $250,000 GEERS Rapid Credentialing Grant, a $125,000 Florida Governor’s Job Growth Grant and $57,280 from the Santa Rosa County Board of Commissioners.

The College also entered into a 40-year land swap lease agreement with Santa Rosa County in September 2019. The county received a 15-acre parcel and an adjacent 7.35-acre parcel of land located on the east side of the College’s South Santa Rosa Center campus. The County plans to use the land for the South Santa Rosa Sports Complex.

The College received the 15 acres in the Santa Rosa Industrial Park East for the truck driving training facility. The truck driving program previously operated at Bronson Field near Blue Angel Recreation Park ─ through an agreement with NAS Pensacola.

The new facility has three classrooms, a simulation center, offices and an adjoining truck bay, a half-mile asphalt driving loop and a concrete test-driving pad.

In 2019, the College purchased a 53-foot, cab-and-trailer training vehicle with the $125,000 Governor’s Job Growth Grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

A second trailer-truck was donated by the Lewis Bear Co. Both vehicles are used to train students in a variety of needed skills, from driving and safety techniques to cargo handling and document procedures for over-the-road preparation for a CDL license.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers to grow 4 percent from 2021 to 2031. About 259,900 openings for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace drivers who move to different occupations or retire.

Listau said the College stands ready to do its part to help fill those openings.

“This is a high-demand field with good pay,” Listau added. “There just aren’t enough licensed people to drive the trucks ─ that’s across the United States.”

When students complete the training, they can earn a Commercial Class “B” Driving and Commercial Vehicle Driving certifications (Class “A”). With the certifications, program graduates are eligible for many jobs requiring a CDL license including long haul trucking jobs and local delivery truck positions.

For more information, contact Sheila Nichols, PSC Executive Director of Marketing and Information, at (850) 484-1428 or snichols@pensacolastate.edu.