Eastern Iowa Community Colleges plan to put more than $800,000 in state and federal grants on training for jobs in the trucking industry.

Plans are to expand the programs and facilities for Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDL). The community colleges received $797,000 from the state of Iowa and around $80,000 from the federal government.

Students and instructors conducted a pre-trip inspection before operating the 53-foot long freight trucks. Those students were hard at work training, and testing their CDL license skills. With new state and federal funding, they will now have more opportunities to obtain a CDL.

“The federal grant allows us to support students getting through the training and into employment,” Matt Schmit, Dean of Manufacturing and Skill Trades, said. “The state grant will build up the infrastructure so we can increase the size of our driving range, buy additional equipment, and basically double our capacity.”

The additional equipment will be met by professional standards. Tom Monroe, a CDL Program Manager with EICC, has been in the trucking industry for over 47 years, and still emphasizes safety, even with technological advances in truck driving. “This technology that’s coming with it, like the automatic transmission, the cameras and stuff, is going to allow us to make sure that we’re meeting the benchmarks and the training requirements that are required,” Monroe said. “The technology is only going to enhance the industry, but the training still has to happen. The student is in charge of an 80,000 pound bullet, let’s be realistic. They still need to understand the safety that they need to understand.”

Local trucking companies like C & W Trucking in Bettendorf recognize the need for drivers with knowledge of technology. “We see the need for technologically-driven individuals that understand tablets, that understand electronics, that can do ELD systems, and everything that we ask our drivers to do all from their tablet or mobile device, is a requirement that pretty much everybody has,” Mooch King, Director of Recruiting for C & W Trucking, said. “When we see that we’re still turning down about 65% of the freight being handed to us, that’s a good sign that the more quality drivers that become available, the more it will benefit not only us, but benefit our customers hands down.”

With new equipment and space being implemented by EICC, truckers say the students and job market will benefit. Matt Schmit, the Dean of Manufacturing and Skill Trades for the community colleges, says the new equipment and space should be ready to use by next year.