By Heather Mullinix
Crossville has positioned itself as a transportation hub, with distribution and trucking companies finding the easy access to Interstate 40.
Now, with a partnership between growing transportation provider TLD Logistics, which has its largest terminal in Crossville, and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Crossville, potential drivers in Cumberland and surrounding counties can get licensed to be commercial drivers.
"Daily, we actually get phone calls from people wanting to get their CDL in this area, as well as Knoxville," said Nina Jones, TLD safety supervisor. "That shows us there is a need, and the with the driving shortage where it is, we think that now is the time to get started."
TLD Logistics Services first came to Crossville in 2010 and has continued to grow its presence in Cumberland County, adding new jobs and increasing its business. Its terminal is located in the Interchange Business Park and earlier this year, it purchased additional property in the park and committed to hiring 25 additional employees. It currently employees more than 100 people.
But the entire trucking industry is finding it more and more difficult to staff its driving positions. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 21 percent growth in jobs for drivers through 2010, with a median pay of $37,770 per year. Trucking added 6,300 jobs in July in the U.S. according to preliminary estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Cliff Wightman, marketing and industrial training coordinator at TCAT of Crossville, said it had long been a goal of the school to offer such a program locally. Cost and available space had kept the Crossville campus from being able to do so.
TLD has agreed to provide a tractor-trailer rig for the school and another to be used for driving practice. TCAT would be responsible for teaching the theory and knowledge necessary to obtain a permit, such as Department of Transportation regulations, understanding freight documents, trip planning, logistics procedures and vehicle component orientation and safety.
That just left the need for a place to practice the driving skills with a certified instructor.
TLD requested the city of Crossville grant a temporary lease to the company and TCAT for use of a three-acre tract of land across the street from the TLD terminal in Interchange Business Park.
There, the students would practice hooking up and un-hooking the truck and trailer, backing up, parking, road driving and how to handle difficult weather and road conditions.
The proposal asks the city to provide culvert and rock for the site and a 90-day notice of cancellation should the site be sold or needed for construction of an industrial spec building. If that were to happen, the city would need to provide another suitable location for the truck driving skills training.
At a special-called meeting Friday, the Crossville City Council approved the lease agreement and agreed to pay $5,000 toward the project. About $6,600 is estimated for gravel and labor costs. Mayor J.H. Graham III moved to approve the request, supported by Councilman Jesse Kerley. The motion was unanimously approved.
Roger Whittenburg, manager of the Crossville terminal, said, "There's not a school in the area. Any carrier who is not thinking along this line is going to be in bad shape. We need the school."