- Associated Press - Sunday, December 21, 2014

DECATUR, Ill. (AP) - Some would swear 20-year-old Nathan Hardeman has diesel fuel running through his veins.

He doesn’t quite remember what sparked his desire for a career behind the wheel, whether it was playing with toy trucks as a child or absorbing his family’s passion for all things automotive, but he is sure of one thing.

“I’ve always wanted to be a truck driver,” he said. “I’ve pretty much always been around trucks.”

And his devotion to claim an office in the cab of a big rig did not go unnoticed for long.

The Moweaqua native was hired at Archer Daniels Midland Co. Trucking last November at age 19, making company history as its youngest driver.

At the time, an individual would have to meet the minimum age requirement of 23 before being considered to join the fleet of drivers, which has about 100 local-area and 50 city-bound, said Debbie Sarko, ADM Trucking terminal manager.

Hiring candidates age 23 or older was preferable because an individual must be 21 to haul products across state lines or to transport hazardous materials, and applicants needed at least two years’ prior experience, she said.

However, because of the growing demand for truck drivers nationwide, Sarko said they can now evaluate younger applicants on a case-by-case basis and provide them with additional training.

“The industry is struggling for drivers, and it’s only predicted to get worse,” she said. “We are targeting a different group of individuals, and we can train them and bring them up the ADM way.”

Statewide, the need for CDL heavy-truck drivers is projected to increase by more than 1,500 jobs between 2013 and 2015, growing past 9,000 jobs by 2022, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

On the national level, the occupation is expected to grow 11 percent between 2012 and 2022, and potential economic growth can increase the demand for goods, calling for more truck drivers to transport them, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Hardeman began driving for ADM’s city operation about a month after completing the Commercial Driver’s License program at Richland Community College, covering the $3,500 cost with a scholarship. About 75 individuals graduate each year from the program, which offers four-week and eight-week courses.

“They pretty much say you are guaranteed to get a job through the program, and that’s exactly what happened,” he said.

The first week consists of classroom work, going through the process to receive a Class A driving permit and learning the paperwork side of trucking such as properly filling out logbooks. The remainder of the program takes place inside a truck, practicing driving maneuvers and inspections. Students then take the driver’s test in Springfield.

“The first two days of shifting were pretty terrible, figuring out the timing and listening to the instructor at the same time,” Hardeman said.

Semitrucks typically have nine- or 10-speed transmissions, but certain models can be found with 18 or even 21 gears.

Jim Turnbull, CDL program coordinator at Richland, described Hardeman as “born to drive a truck.”

“Nathan is one of what you would call a natural; you get him in a truck, and he just picks things up like that,” he said snapping his fingers.

Sarko mirrored that description, commending his discipline and strong work ethic.

“He is a very quiet young man, but for someone that young, he has a lot of talent,” she said.

In October, Workforce Investment Solutions partnered with ADM, McLeod Express and Richland to enroll a dozen students into the college’s CDL program with the goal of providing displaced or underemployed individuals with the necessary skill set to connect with employers in high job demand.

The group of students began classes Oct. 28, and program fees were paid for through a grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

“We put them on the road to success, and they’ll never be unemployed unless they want to be,” Turnbull said.

___

Source: (Decatur) Herald and Review, https://bit.ly/1rbtI62

___

Information from: Herald & Review, https://www.herald-review.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide