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Local municipalities offsetting costs of truck driver courses

Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 4:48 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - As the shortage of truckers continues across the nation, just getting a license to drive a truck is a big challenge. Now some public officials are trying to help.

“Everybody is competing for the same pool of people to fill a seat to drive a truck,” said Joe Wasilewski.

He’s the president of the Jefferson County Highway Superintendents Association, a position that has helped him see first-hand how the truck driver shortage is causing problems for local municipalities

“It creates an issue for us to maintain the infrastructure in the roads and to also plow snow in the winter time which ultimately leads to a safety issue,” he said.

Wasilewski says the biggest hurdle for interested drivers is the price of obtaining a Commercial Driver’s License.

For a Class A CDL, that would cost you more than $7,000.

A Class B is $5,800, and that’s after completing a 30-hour course.

Wasilewski also says new state regulations are also playing into the shortage.

“Now if you obtain a Class B CDL, to get a Class A CDL, you have to start over. It’s a completely different program than it has been in years past and ever been. It’s never been this way,” he said.

Some municipalities like the city of Watertown are working to try to help interested applicants obtain their CDL by footing some of the bills.

However, Mayor Jeff Smith says it’s hard to compete with the private sector.

“The city, you know, has excellent health insurance, excellent retirement benefits, but maybe not as great on the financial, might be not as high as some private sector,” he said.

Meanwhile, Wasilewski says the issue will only continue to get worse as time goes on.

“There is a labor shortage and there are baby boomers that have been hired in all of these municipalities and the county and these villages that over the next 5 years are going to retire,” he said.

Different CDL classes are offered through Jefferson Community College and BOCES.

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