In 2021, the truck driver shortage reached a record high of 80,000 drivers. As a trucking school, you might’ve seen this coming given the declining enrollment rates in CDL programs.
To keep enrollment on the rise, and to make a dent in the truck driver shortage, here’s 8 things you can do.
1. Acknowledge the Financial Barriers to Attendance
CDL programs range from $2,500 to $8,000 and aren’t eligible for Title IV funding. This leaves many students unable to afford enrolling. Thus, it’s important to acknowledge the financial barriers students face, while offering proper solutions.
If you can, offer robust scholarship opportunities, or partner with local organizations to create scholarship programs.
2. Offer Flexible Financing Options
If scholarships aren’t an option, consider offering flexible financing. A multi-lender marketplace, like Meratas, allows students to submit one application and receive a list of financing options, complete with both private loans and in-house payment plans.
In-house payment plans allow you to provide the funding and receive payments directly from students. This allows you to develop custom tuition plans that fit your business goals and appeal to students. When students have obtainable financing options, they’re far more likely to enroll.
3. Leverage Data on Career Outcomes
The average base salary of a truck driver is $82,053 — significantly higher than most entry-level positions. And, given the fairly low educational barrier to entry, the job placement rate tends to be higher — around 86% for some programs.
Make sure to leverage this data to your advantage. How much do alumni of your program end up making in their first year post-graduation? Who are they working for? What is your job placement rate? Use this information to make your program stand out amidst the bunch.
4. Clarify the Requirements to Receive a CDL License
In 2022, new regulations for Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT) were released, leaving some aspiring truck drivers confused about the level of training they need. To simplify the process, consider adding a one-pager to your website that explains the process in detail.
This gives prospective students a better understanding of what they need to do, making it easier to feel confident in the decision to enroll. This also positions your school as a knowledgeable program, giving peace of mind about the quality of your program to prospective students.
5. Conduct Presentations in Female-Only Schools and Organizations
Women make up only 7% of all truck drivers — much lower than their overall representation in the workforce. Encouraging more women to pursue this field can lead to higher enrollment rates and help reduce the overall shortage.
If you’re having trouble reaching women, consider presenting to female-only organizations and schools. Utilize stories of female truck drivers to bring to life the experience, share the pros and cons, and help women feel confident in their decision to obtain their CDL.
6. Partner with Local High Schools
In some states, local high schools are expanding their course offerings to expose teens to the trucking industry. For example, Patterson High School in California now offers an elective course for seniors to help students learn workplace skills through hands-on training.
The instructor, Dave Dein, says, “If we don’t start promoting trucking to our youth, they only can make decisions on the information they have.” This makes teaching them about the trucking industry crucial.
Consider reaching out to the high schools near you to partner on an elective course on truck driving. If traditional schools don’t have such courses, reach out to vocational high schools in the area. They will already have the infrastructure needed to build out hands-on training.
This will expose younger students to the field and your program, helping you enroll more students and send more licensed drivers into the workforce.
7. Up Your Marketing Game
Want to reach a new, younger audience? Get on social media and lean into quirky content.
Colleges like Louisiana State University and the University of Utah have leveraged TikTok to create relatable, funny, trending content that reaches thousands of potential students each day. While a few trucking schools have made their way onto the platform, most aren’t using it to its fullest capacity.
Take inspiration from top universities on social media platforms and create a fun marketing strategy that’s bound to attract new students. Here’s a few ideas to get you started:
- Ask instructors what their salary as a truck driver was before becoming an instructor.
- Show a day in the life of a student in your program.
- Break down the cost to become a truck driver and show how that compares to the starting base salary.
- Make memes about misconceptions of the trucking industry.
8. Create Educational Content
The trucking industry is full of misconceptions like:
- Trucking is a dangerous industry.
- Women aren’t welcome.
- Truckers never shower.
- The hours are unbearable.
- You can’t make a good living as a truck driver.
To dispel some of these myths, create educational content. Whether you share it on social media, a blog, or in the presentations you do, breaking down misconceptions will allow more people to consider trucking as a potential career.
The Broader Impact of Low Enrollment
Increasing enrollment in your trucking program isn’t just about hitting internal goals, it’s about the industry as a whole. Without proper enrollment rates, the truck driver shortage will continue to reach new heights. With fewer truck drivers on the road, supply chains will be disrupted and consumers will be impacted.
So, while focusing on increasing enrollment, think about the bigger picture. Taking just a few small actions to get more students into your program will shape the economy as a whole for years to come.