Pensacola State College President Dr. Ed Meadows remembers reading an article earlier this year about Walmart facing a shortage of truck drivers to haul the company’s cargo from town to town.

USA Today’s Jan. 24 headline screamed the news: “Walmart hiring hundreds more truck drivers — and it’s paying nearly $90,000.” Walmart is not the only company seeking qualified big-rig drivers. The shortage is nationwide.

Meadows has been a driving force in the establishment of the new Pensacola State College commercial truck driver training program, which rolls out with its first class later this month. Maybe it’s because he once drove a big vehicle with precious cargo himself, a school bus when he was in his 20s. Or maybe it’s because PSC is committed to giving students the needed skills and training to capture needed, good-paying jobs in the local workforce.

“If you start scanning the horizon for workforce gaps, one of the first things that gets your attention is the national shortage, and then the local shortage,’’ Meadows said of the commercial trucking industry. “There’s a huge need.”

The 2018 median pay for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers was $21 an hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which also forecasts a 6 percent growth in the profession from 2016 to 2026.

PSC purchased one 53-foot cab-and-trailer training vehicle through a Governor’s Job Growth Grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. A second trailer-truck was donated recently by the local beverage distributor, The Lewis Bear Company.

When students complete the 320-hour Commercial Vehicle Driving course, they should have all the tools they need to earn a Florida Class A Commercial Driver License. The first class is a non-credit class offered through the College Corporate & Professional Development program, but PSC will offer classes for credits in the future.

The cost for the Commercial Vehicle Driving course is $4,840. Meadows admitted the price for the course and lab fees is “quite high,’’ but added that the fee is still less expensive than most private training schools.

PSC offers scholarships and financial aid that is specifically earmarked for truck driving students. Scholarships are available through the College Career and Technical Education Center. The scholarships could pay up to 100 percent of fees for college credit courses. PSC has also established a partnership with CareerSource Escarosa, which will provide financial assistance and job placement follow-ups to qualified applicants.

For details on the program, contact Ruth McKinon at 850-484-1379 or rmckinon@pensacolastate.edu.

For scholarship information, contact Deborah Hooks at 850-484-2161.