(WFXR) — Because of the coronavirus pandemic, businesses are shutting down and forcing millions of people out of work. Here in Virginia, there are grants to help people get back to work.
Thousands are changing careers and finding alternative ways to make ends meet. Particularly, displaced women are turning to the trucking industry.
Locally, the industry is welcoming women to the roadways. CDS Tractor Trailer Truck Driving School in Roanoke solicits women to make the switch. Several 18-wheeler rigs rove the streets and highways — wrapped to encourage women to sign up.
Tractor-trailer driver Lecia Moxley doesn’t mind hitting the road. She travels from the east coast to the west coast several times a month.
“I been out here by myself for six years,” said Moxley.
Moxley also likes the camaraderie and the salary.
“I bought a house and two brand new cars. I like the bling, bling,” she added.
She encourages other women to do the same.
“If you want independence where you are in control of your own destiny, trucking is the business to go into,” Moxley encouraged.
CDS Enrollment & Placement Manager for Roanoke & Southwest Virginia Christopher Bratton works to enroll student drivers in the program. Particularly, right now, women are a big draw.
“It’s a great field to get into and having that untapped market of women who might have been afraid to get behind the wheel of one of these trucks, we ease some of their concerns and have folks enter into this career field,” Bratton said.
This marketing is working.
After being laid off twice during the coronavirus pandemic, from her factory job in Lynchburg, student driver Amanda Hoffard, decided to try a different career.
She’s now enrolled at CDS and will be done with training in the coming weeks. She was awarded a $4,500 grant to take the course for free. Most people get the grant for free attendance.
“In the next two years, particularly, I can expect to make $80,000 a year,” Hoffard shared. “When you’ve made less than $20,000 a year for your whole life, that’s a huge impact.”
Women are coming into the trucking industry to better prepare for retirement and to take care of their immediate financial needs including taking care of their family at a time when millions of people are losing jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic. Cindy Ballard is the Instructor at CDS. “This is an eighty thousand pound machine and if you’re not on task somebody can get hurt,” says Ballard. And she definitely doesn’t want that, so as potential drivers go through training, Ballard makes sure they have the knowledge and the skill to maintain road and vehicle safety.
Once you have a commercial driver’s license, salaries vary depending on the routes.
In the first year, local routes pay $40,000 to $50,000; regional routes pay $50,000 to $60,000; and if these driver’s decide to drive cross country or over the road, the salary is endless, starting around $80,000.
Most of the people going through the CDS tractor trailer training program are given a grant from the state to go for free. If you had to pay out-of-pocket, the program would cost $4,500.
The course is four to 10 weeks long.
For 2020, 295 people have enrolled so far and a total of 152 people have thus far graduated. This is because there’s currently a backlog at the DMV. Current Students actively pursuing a CDL is 113. Forty-one of those are female.