Warner Robins, Ga. – There is a problem in the Commercial Truck Driving (CDL) industry that Central Georgia Technical College (CGTC) and its 8-week CDL program at its Putnam County Center are trying to navigate; older drivers are leaving the road and demand for transportation of goods requires their replacement.
CGTC’s Putnam County director, Carrie Dietrich, saw the problem and shared news of the CDL course to the community, a community positioned directly in the corridor of open road between Georgia’s Interstates 20, 16 and 75. There is also the increase in Industry demand to transport goods continues to rise amidst current COVID-19 precautions nationwide.
“What CDL courses and the career offers is a pace like no other, and a pathway to an expanse of opportunity on the open road,” she said. “We certainly hope each student who considers this route, does so knowing how much opportunity exists and how much we support them.”
Like she does with all programs offered at the Center, Dietrich promotes them extensively. The Center exists to spread the mission of the College while also providing a community presence that makes students feel at home.
Students enroll in classes here, that’s college. They also enroll in high-demand careers like CDL and Welding, but what is often unpredictable at a center is the class size and demographics of the course.
That is why Dietrich and CDL instructor, Sharoko Farley, took second and third glances at the roster in January.
For its first time ever the Putnam County class of CDL students is all-female.
Two of the students, Santrice Speights and Keysha Williams, never really gave much consideration to any other career.
“I always wanted to travel the world and see places and I felt like truck driving gave me the best way to do that,” said Speights, who has traveled and worked as a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) before.
Keysha Williams has already driven a school bus for the county for six years and said since she was young she had a fascination for big trucks.
“There is a lot of difference,” she said. “Some of the parts are the same, but a school bus is one long, straight body, and a truck is split in the middle. And Believe it or not, I actually love the kids, but I have always wanted to drive trucks.”
The students in Farley’s class are motivated to do great things.
“They work as hard as anyone and I am constantly telling them there are jobs or even opportunities to own their own truck and fill a great need for more drivers in this industry,” Farley said.
Speights and Williams said the 8-week structure of the course pushes them to learn these new skills at an equal rate, equal meaning that they are on the same track as their male peers.
Williams said that she has heard through friends and family that women are in some way less-equipped to handle big trucks and an open road, and she’s had enough.
“They say, ‘you really want to do that?’, or ‘that’s a man’s career, it’s not for women.’”, Williams said. “My answer is always that I want to do this.”
Not much is left for these women to navigate but a few weeks left in the course. Their hope is that when they hit the open road, it will begin a movement of more women drivers, and that young women see them and recognize there is a place for them.
“As more and more females come through, and as more and more graduate and get their Class A licenses, then we’ll be able to say this used to be a male-dominated field,” Speights said.
CGTC’s Putnam County Center continuously enrolls for CDL classes. Interested students should contact Carrie Dietrich at 706–923-5002.
Photo: For the first time, CGTC’s Putnam County Center has an entirely female class and they are ready to hit the road.