decorative image of truck-driving-768×347-1 , Commercial Vehicle Driving 2020-08-26 09:48:26 Published: 09-28-2020

Troy Moon, Pensacola State College

Work should begin within the next few months on a new Pensacola State College truck driving training facility in Santa Rosa County.

On Friday, Sept. 18, the U.S. Department of Commerce awarded a $1.6 million grant to PSC to help construct the facility at the Industrial Park in Santa Rosa County north of Interstate 10.

Currently, Pensacola State’s truck driving program operates near Blue Angel Recreation Park west of the College’s Warrington campus. PSC President Ed Meadows said the new training facility should be open in late spring or early summer 2021.

“This is a real shot in the arm and will help us jumpstart the construction phase for a driving range and facilities,’’ Meadows said. “This will ensure that it will be a state-of-the-art facility and give us the capability to do our own testing.”

The grant was issued through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration. The grant must be matched with $2.9 million in local funds. The grant helps PSC expand and improve on its mission to provide workforce training in Northwest Florida.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the grant is “great news for Pensacola State College and Florida’s economy.”

“We’ve worked hard to expand career opportunities for students and this truck driving facility will complement our efforts and create hundreds of jobs for the region.”

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott said the grant is “critical to help address our truck driving shortage and provide students with successful careers.”

According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), there is a nationwide shortage of commercial truck drivers.

In 2018, the trucking industry was short roughly 60,800 drivers, and the ATA predicted that if current trends hold, the shortage could swell to more than 160,000 by 2028. The 2019 median pay for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers was $22.29 an hour.

PSC initiated its truck driving program in September 2019.

Students in the program will drive at least 1,000 miles in training. When students complete the 320-hour Commercial Vehicle Driving course, they should have all the tools needed to earn a Florida Class A Commercial Driver License.

Debbie Douma, PSC Dean of Grants and Federal Programs, said the grant award is a huge boost to the College and the community.

“This is an investment in diversifying our economy providing opportunities for our workforce,’’ Douma said. “As we saw just last week in Hurricane Sally’s aftermath, restaurants and other businesses that were just getting reopened during COVID conditions, were shut down again. Yet trucks were on the road.”