PHOENIX — With a shortage of commercial truck drivers in the industry, some former inmates within the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation & Reentry (ADCRR) are being given the opportunity to earn their CDL (commercial drivers license) and to hopefully land a job.
It's a partnership with the Arizona Department of Transportation, which said that the program would help ease the shortage of truck drivers, boost the supply chain, and give former inmates a second chance.
According to ADOT, more than 400 inmates have completed the Eagle Point Second Chance program and some 100 of those people going on to earn their CDL at the Phoenix Truck Driving Institute.
Michael Thompson recently completed the program and is overjoyed at the opportunity.
"Man if you can't tell, I am so happy. I'm really happy," Thompson said during a Zoom interview with ABC15.
"I got my CDL permit and that had to be the highlight of my time there," he said.
Thompson landed a job at a local lumber yard and cannot wait to finish earning his CDL.
"I got hired out here as a driver and I'm training to pilot, and as soon as I go to the Phoenix Truck Driving school with Christi (Kirkendoll) and get my CDL, man, I’ll be here at the company and start driving trucks," he said.
Christi Kirkendoll is the corporate director of admissions at the Phoenix Truck Driving Institute. She said her students are grateful for the opportunity
to better themselves.
"Extremely grateful. A lot of my graduates will come back and give that 'thank you' for believing in me and helping me through this process to become a part of society again," she said.
Students complete 160 hours of training — 4o hours of classroom preparation and 120 hours of behind-the-wheel training. It takes between four and eight weeks to complete and earn the CDL, she said.
To start, drivers can reasonably earn between $1,000 to $1,200 a week.
She said earning a CDL is more than just driving trucks.
"There's other fields that do require you to have a CDL. You've got lineman and crane operators are also in demand," she said.
The biggest need now is truck drivers.
"Truck driving in general, there's a huge shortage in our supply-demand chain, so we definitely look at this career as in high demand," she said.
Ryan Harding, a spokesperson with ADOT, said the program is a win-win, filling the need for drivers and giving former inmates a leg up.
"And it also helps reduce recidivism," Harding said. "So there's less chance for second offenses when they are productive and have a job that they can go do," he said.
"For those who, like myself and others, can use every opportunity, every resource, anything just to give us the slightest leg up to say hey, move forward, we're gonna help you move a couple extra steps. That's awesome," Thompson said.
ADOT said the program has been such a success so far that they hope to get more funding so it can continue down the road