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Barre trucking company sets up paid training program to attract drivers

Published: Jul. 1, 2021 at 6:04 PM EDT
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BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) - A shortage of commercial drivers is leaving many trucking companies in the dust. But one local business may have found a solution by establishing a first-of-its-kind CDL driving school.

“Not only can you get paid while you train, it comes equipped with a job afterwards,” said George Torres, a CDL trainee from Milton.

That’s the deal when you earn a seat on the RPR team -- a $16 hourly wage and a guaranteed kickstart to your commercial driving career. “Since I was 18, I started doing driving delivery jobs. There’s been a shortage the entire time I’ve been doing it, and a lot of companies say they want to get everybody trained, get you your CDL, but there’s just not enough time and resources,” Torres said.

But the RPR Driving School in Barre promises it’s a program like no other. For several years Barre’s Bellavance Trucking -- like countless companies across the country -- has suffered from the CDL driver shortage. The problem became especially apparent during the pandemic. “What are we going to do? There are 15 empty trucks,” said the company’s Krissy Bellavance.

They thought what better way to get great truck drivers than teach them, themselves. So, the company hired Mark Potter to make it happen. “That was my whole goal when I came up with this program, was to really kind of create something special that was specific to Bellavance Trucking,” Potter said.

Bellavance built a space and Potter says he helped hand-pick four candidates who started last month. “It’s been going really well,” he said.

Bellavance Trucking pays RPR the $6,000 tuition for each enrollment, meaning drivers don’t pay a dime. The trainees get paid every week so they can focus on learning rather than making ends meet. Once they complete the course, they’re required to drive for Bellavance for at least two years.

“They came up with a great idea and I’m willing to bet that it’s going to pay dividends for them in the end,” said Capt. Kevin Andrews, the Vermont DMV’s chief of safety. He hopes other businesses will get on this bandwagon, saying CDL drivers are crucial to the state’s commerce, carrying commodities to rural regions. “Every good that we get at a store, whether it’s a grocery store or a hardware store, that’s delivered by a truck. I mean, there’s no other way that those goods get there.”

“They’re wonderful people who keep the world going,” Bellavance said.

A group of people that students like George Torres can’t wait to be a part of. “They say if you get a job doing something you like, you don’t work a day in your life, and that’s absolutely true for me,” Torres said.

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