Irving, Texas-based Company Takes The Entire Industry To School
You hear it all the time: There aren’t enough young drivers coming into the trucking industry. The trucking industry doesn’t get the respect it deserves any more. It’s a lot like the weather: Everyone complains about it, but nobody does anything about it.
Now, I know full well that isn’t true: There’s a lot being done every day—by a lot of good people—to attract young drivers, and to bolster the industry’s public image. But it’s equally true that National Carriers is taking its commitment to both causes, and to drivers themselves, to a new level.
National’s Elite Fleet University, created in cooperation with Seward County Community College in Liberal, KS, is not what you probably think it is (just another company-owned truck-driving school). It’s literally a school offering drivers the opportunity to get a college education—while still earning a full-time salary.
An Enthusiastic Enrollee
The inaugural class is scheduled to begin January, 2014—and National driver Steven Strickland, one of the first enrollees, sums-up the opportunity like this: “You just don’t know how excited I am! I couldn’t go to college coming out of high school. Now I can do my studies online and get college credit—and the cost is exceptional ($400 a quarter, paid direct through an easy payroll-deduction plan).
“I plan on going through every class, but I’m already thinking about how I can use the first course—Business Math. For starters, I won’t have to pay someone to do my taxes. It’ll help me do a better job of managing my money. I’ve even thought about doing a little accounting work for some of the other drivers.”
The Long-Term Benefit To National
Long term, Strickland might even use his education to move out of the truck and into the office at National. Which is one of the central aspects of the vision National’s Ed Kentner had when the idea for Elite Fleet University originally came to him last June: Career advancement within the company; giving good people real opportunities to stay with National. It was an idea, notes Kentner, born of first-hand experience. “Coming out of high school, I couldn’t afford college myself—and that was frustrating to me.”
Kentner earned his degree at night school while working for National, and is a big believer in education. “Better educated people make better decisions that benefit everyone—especially themselves.”
A Commitment From Leadership
Kentner reports that his idea was an easy sell to National’s decision-makers. It’s clearly enhanced National’s image as a company that genuinely cares about drivers. And it’s a great addition to the company’s aggressive Driver Retention initiative—which, Kentner reports, has reduced turnover during the last 18 months by about 25%.
The Response From Drivers
“I’m now hearing from drivers in their 50s and 60s, who tell me this is something they’ve always wanted to do,” says Kentner. “We’re even working on a Letterman jacket.”
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