Surry Community College was awarded a $200,000 grant today through the Golden LEAF Foundation to aid its Truck Driver Training Program.
The funding, approved by the Golden LEAF Board of Directors during a meeting in Rocky Mount, will be used by SCC to buy two automatic range trucks with trailers to expand its program.
This is allowing the college to increase the number of students trained by up to 60 annually, according to an announcement from Golden LEAF this afternoon.
“We were really ecstatic to learn today that we were awarded that grant,” said Dr. Douglas Underwood, director of the Yadkin Center of SCC, which includes the Truck Driver Training Program.
The funding for Surry Community College was among a total of $5.4 million approved during the April meeting of the Golden LEAF board for various projects around the state.
Established in 1999, the Golden LEAF Foundation is a non-profit organization that received a portion of North Carolina’s funding from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with cigarette manufacturers to dispense for various programs.
For more than 20 years, Golden LEAF has worked to increase economic opportunity in North Carolina’s rural and tobacco-dependent communities through leadership in grantmaking, collaboration, innovation and stewardship as an independent and perpetual foundation.
Of the $5.4 million total awarded today, Surry Community College’s request was one of seven projects tapped for a total of $2,359,000 in Open Grants Program funding.
Those projects will support job creation and economic investment, workforce preparedness and agriculture in Surry, Beaufort, Davidson, Randolph, Rockingham, Wayne and Wilson counties.
Conforming to trend
Underwood said the new trucks that the Golden LEAF funding will provide represent a key acquisition.
“These are automatic trucks, which is where the industry is going,” he said of a trend in which trucking companies are relaying on vehicles with automatic transmissions as opposed to the manual type used for many years.
For one thing, the automatic trucks are better suited to students who do not know how to operate a standard transmission.
Underwood added that the “range” trucks involved means that their use will be limited to the college training course and not used on highways.
The two trucks approved for Golden LEAF funding are single-axle types along with trailers.
Underwood mentioned that the grant awarded today is coming on the heels of an earlier North Carolina Economic Impact Grant for $125,000 to SCC for adding two dual-axle automatic road trucks for training on highways.
Despite the shift toward automatic transmissions, the college still has training for manual trucks, he said.
The growth of Surry Community College’s Truck Driver Training Program mirrors a huge demand for drivers nationwide, which the local school has tried to address by turning out a steady stream of graduates.
There is a shortage of up to 12,000 truck drivers in North Carolina and as many as 200,000 nationally, based on previous reports, representing solid employment opportunities for CDL (Commercial Driver’s License)-certified operators.
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