Werner Enterprises continues to grow its freight transportation footprint with two acquisitions, and officials are implementing an outreach program with the Cherokee Nation to add future truck drivers.
Amber Wall, an instructor at the Arbuckle Truck Driving School in Ardmore, Oklahoma, indicated that trucking has been a good-paying opportunity for its graduates. But the outdated image of the grizzled trucker and uncertainty about finding a position held people back. With Werner partnering with Cherokee Nation to establish a pre-apprenticeship program, future CDL holders can feel more confident that they will have a job waiting after graduation.
“They come into school day one and the confusion and worry about finding where they are going to work is already taken care of, they are going to go to work for Werner,” Wall reportedly said. “When they leave the school training is not done. They are still training. They are going to go through weeks of orientation and weeks of training with a driver in the truck.”
The pre-apprenticeship program appears to be gaining traction from Tribal leaders. Three of the school’s most recent students are young-adult Cherokee Nation citizens who are new to the truck driving culture. Cherokee Nation Tribal Council Member Joe Deere noted that its leaders prefer young adults learn a trade, such as driving truck, over incurring the debt associated with a four-year college degree.
“Cherokee Nation is on the reservation. Our people exist in the community with other people in our community, so we work together,” Deere reportedly said. “This could be part of grant money, part of money from the budget, several ways we can go about making this happen.”
The Cherokee Nation recently approved a $3.5 billion budget, the largest in the tribe’s history. The measure includes a reported $569 million in capital investment.
Werner recently announced the acquisitions of Reed Transportation Services and Baylor Trucking. Ranked among the largest operation in the U.S., Werner generated revenue north of $2.4 billion in 2021 and employed nearly 13,000 people with an average salary of more than $72,000. The organization possessed more than 8,000 tractors and 23,000 trailers before the recent acquisitions.
There are a reported 3.5 million truck drivers in the U.S., earning an average salary estimated at $71,317. The average salary in Oklahoma is approximately $51,040, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.