Editor’s Note: Filling the Driver’s Seat is a series delving into fleets’ driver recruitment and retention strategies through the lens of the people leading the efforts. Know someone we should profile? Email [email protected].
Flatbed driver Marcus Yarbrough returned to WorldLink Truck Driving Academy as a graduate last month and spoke for about an hour with students at the driving school in North Little Rock, Arkansas.
Yarbrough, who completed the four-week WorldLink program and obtained his CDL this spring, has driven for Mississippi-based Jordan Carriers since April. He encouraged the students to stay off their phones and listen to their instructor if they want to become part of the next generation of truck drivers.
“Pay attention,” Yarbrough urged. “He has driven a truck as long as some of you have been alive, and he knows what he's talking about.”
A new partnership between WorldLink and Arkansas Baptist College seeks to replicate Yarbrough’s successful entry into the industry — and diversify the pool of truck drivers by promoting the academy to students receiving assistance through the HBCU’s Adult Education Program.
Yarbrough, who previously spent 27 years manufacturing military-grade weapons for Lockheed Martin, is still getting used to his new life as a long-haul trucker.
He’s on the road all week and usually gets home to Camden, Arkansas, in time to spend weekends with his wife, Demetria; daughter, Kyana; and 1-year-old granddaughter, Kyari.
“The most I’m away from home is two weeks at a time,” Yarbrough said. “Getting adapted to not being at home every night, that’s the only hard part about it ... not being able to touch them. We FaceTime and talk, but it’s just different than touching your family. That’s the hardest part right now.”
Federal dollars supporting trucking recruitment
Yarbrough's instruction was funded by a $5,250 federal Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act Title I-B grant from the Southwest Arkansas Planning and Development District in Magnolia, Arkansas.
Arkansas Baptist College’s Adult Education Program connects low-income residents with job opportunities paid for with federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funding.
The adult education program offers assistance to more than just CDL applicants: Other recipients train to become medical assistants or welders, Adult Education Director Debra Baker said.
One WorldLink student who enrolled through the fledgling partnership with the Adult Education Program has graduated and is looking for work, Baker said. Another two are being screened for enrollment at WorldLink.
Three more attended another academy, Pine Bluff Truck Driving School, with TANF funding through the adult education program.
“Our goal would be to have eight of them complete the program in the next year,” Baker said.
A business pivot, and a word of advice
Before founding WorldLink, Gladys and Gary Godley, self-described entrepreneurs, tried their luck with launching a single-truck carrier operation.
They encountered the same driver retention challenges staring down the rest of the industry. So they decided instead to help boost the driver pipeline. They opened the academy in 2021.
“We decided to pivot,” Gladys Godley said. “Rather than have a trucking company, we decided to go into a truck driving school and train drivers.”
To encourage more people to pursue truck driving, Yarbrough said the industry should take a hard look at pay. An offer of $1,100 a week for an inexperienced trainee made joining Jordan “a no-brainer” for him.
He’s stayed on because he said the company has kept its word to him as an employee.
“From my experience with Jordan, what they say is what they do,” he said.
Clarification: This article has been updated to reflect the Southwest Arkansas Planning and Development District’s role in funding Yarbrough’s instruction.