Residents and businesses with workers waiting to train in truck driver programs at Alabama’s community and technical colleges may be able to do so sooner, thanks to a historic donation from Coca-Cola UNITED.
Coca-Cola UNITED donated two manual transmission trucks and trailers to the Alabama Community College System (ACCS) during a ribbon cutting ceremony at Montgomery Coca-Cola Bottling Company on Tuesday, May 9. The donation was the first such investment made by Coca-Cola UNITED to a community college system. The company operates facilities throughout Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
Gianetta Jones, Coca-Cola UNITED Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer, said the donation is the result of a discussion two years ago with ACCS regarding the need for more trucks to train Alabama drivers. As with many products across the nation post-pandemic, truck orders by ACCS colleges were backlogged for several months at a time when the number of students training for truck driving careers increased.
Jones said both of the donated trucks are outside the life cycle for Coca-Cola UNITED’s fleet but are still valuable for both on-road and off-road manual transmission commercial driver’s license (CDL) training. In addition to helping certify the dozens of Coca-Cola UNITED workers who go through the company’s own truck driver training program, Jones said Coca-Cola UNITED is confident the trucks will benefit residents throughout Alabama who are seeking their CDL.
“The opportunity to pour into the future of Alabama in a way that helps meets the needs of our associates, customers and communities through the Alabama Community College System is indicative of the culture of Coca-Cola UNITED, and we are blessed to be able to do so,” Jones said. “Our hope is that the availability of these trucks can help increase class sizes and put more people in the trucks which, in turn, results in more people being able to earn a living for their families.”
Truck driving is among the fastest growing programs in the ACCS, particularly for first-time freshmen. Alabama’s community colleges have more than 20 truck driving programs. More than 7,000 residents sought credentials within these programs since 2019.
The ACCS also partners with local businesses and industry for free, customized CDL training through the ACCS Innovation Center’s Skills for Success. More than 1,100 residents have registered for CDL A training through Skills for Success, which started last year.
These programs meet a significant need for more truck drivers in Alabama. According to the Alabama Trucking Association (ATA), trucking represents 125,000 jobs in Alabama, which is one of every 13 jobs in the state. ATA estimates the average annual salary for a professional truck driver is $70,000.
The announcement of the truck donation comes as the ACCS celebrates it 60th anniversary, called the Diamond Jubilee.
“For 60 years the Alabama Community College System has existed to meet the workforce needs of Alabama, and how we do that must always be to the beat of the businesses and industry who employ the workers we are training,” said Jimmy H. Baker, Chancellor of the Alabama Community College System. “We appreciate Coca-Cola United for its continued commitment to join alongside our colleges for meaningful efforts that strengthen our programs, our students and our communities.”
The trucks donated by Coca-Cola UNITED will be housed at Trenholm State Community College in Montgomery and Southern Union State Community College in Opelika. Residents who train on a manual transmission truck for a CDL A are not restricted to only driving automatic vehicles.
This is a huge benefit to students like Darrel Scott, a retired U.S. Army veteran who is a current student of Trenholm State’s truck driving program.
“I spoke to many alumni and students of this program and realized that it was worth a try, and I couldn’t be happier with the excellence I see in the program,” said Scott, who is expected to earn his CDL this month.
“I’ve already purchased a truck and am hoping to one day have my own fleet. To say I got training to start my own business, not even 20 miles away from where I live, really means something.”