Blue-Collar Students Trucking Through Student Debt

Blue-Collar Students Trucking Through Student Debt
Susan Dutca-Lovell

The looming 1.4 billion student debt haunts not only college students and graduates, but blue-collar students as well. Dozens of truck drivers recount the industry's hopeful advertisement and how they are left in debt with thousands of dollars in training fees and poor job prospects.

Trucking is crucial for U.S. commerce since consumers depend on it for moving cars, delivering food to homes and transporting online-bought goods. Nearly 10.5 billion tons of freight were hauled by trucks in 2015, which accounts for "70 percent of the tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation." Despite this, there is still a shortage of truck drivers, especially when it comes to recruiting women (who only make up 5 percent of the industry).

Those who are enticed by online or newspaper ads are led to believe that "they just need to go and will instantly make $500 a week"; however, "they're not ready for the roads, they owe money, [and] they're disappointed." CRST International is one of the transport and logistics companies out there that sell the idea of a promising career in the industry with steady work and a "huge sign-on bonus." Candidates of the program called the training program "brutal"; there didn't seem to be any background checks, there was little preparation for the commercial driver's license test and many were saddled with thousands in debt.

Driving a semi-truck requires a commercial driver's license which can be attained at some community colleges or independent schools. Some schools may be eligible for federal funding through Title IV federal student aid and in the past have received $4 million in federal loans and $500,000 in Pell Grants. In some instances where the trucking company and not the government administers the loan, "workers have fewer protections against harsh repayment terms and high-interest rates."

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