Ivy Tech, Conexus to launch first-of-its-kind truck driver training program

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Ivy Tech Community College and Conexus Indiana are launching what they say is a first-in-the-nation program: commercial truck-driver training that students can pay for using federal student loans.

The one-semester program, which includes both on-the-road driver training and academic instruction, is set to begin in January at Ivy Tech campuses in Indianapolis, Lafayette, Fort Wayne, Evansville and Lawrenceburg. Organizers plan to expand the program to additional campuses in the future.

Conexus is an Indianapolis-based organization that works to strengthen the state’s advanced manufacturing and logistics industries. It developed the program to help ease the statewide and national driver shortage that has plagued the trucking industry for years.

“We’ve looked and looked and looked to see if anyone else has done this. We haven’t found this anywhere,” said Bryce Carpenter, Conexus’ vice president of industry engagement. “We think that it’s going to be a job creator in Indiana, and a talent attractor.”

The Indiana Motor Truck Association and Indianapolis-based Venture Logistics assisted with the program’s development.

Carpenter said the Ivy Tech program, called CDL+, differs from existing driver-training programs in several significant ways. Students will exit the program with not only their commercial driver’s license but also additional driver training and 17 hours of academic credit. The program is also eligible for federal student loans, which is not the case for programs at commercial driving schools.

Typically, Carpenter said, students who want to earn their commercial driver’s license will learn the basics at a truck driving school, where they complete 160 hours of federally mandated training.

Students must then secure additional training at what Carpenter called “finishing school” before they’re ready to start driving commercially. Some larger trucking companies offer their own finishing school.

The Ivy Tech program, Carpenter said, includes 460 hours of instruction and is designed to produce drivers who are road-ready from their first day on the job, making them more attractive to employers. “It’s a more in-depth CDL training that teaches a lot of what students have to go get after they get the minimum training.”

The total cost of the Ivy Tech program is $6,630, as compared to $7,500 to $8,000 at commercial driving schools, Carpenter said. And being able to use student loans to pay for the program will help reduce a financial barrier.

Students will also earn 17 hours of academic credit that they can later apply toward an associate’s degree in logistics. Because trucking is a high-turnover occupation, Carpenter said, the academic credit makes Ivy Tech’s program “a much more valuable investment” than a commercial driver’s license alone would be. “It’s a stackable credit to pursue the next thing if commercial truck driving isn’t for them.”

Over time, Carpenter said, the goal is to replicate the Ivy Tech program elsewhere around the state. The program was developed with an Indiana Department of Workforce Development grant, and as a requirement of that grant the program was designed for use beyond just Ivy Tech.

“This is a program that could be adopted to any educational institution or trucking company that is interested,” Carpenter said.

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