MERRILL - Trucks move almost 71% of all manufactured and retail goods delivered across the United States. But, people willing to drive them are in short supply.
Twelve people, including Mitchell Bratz, spend five hours a day, four days a week traveling around the Northwoods. But, not for the reason you may think.
"I'm in the electrical power distribution program at NTC and part of that course consists of getting my CDL," said Bratz.
CDL - meaning a Class A commercial driver's license to drive semi-trucks. Student Austin Wolfgram has been practicing 90 degree turns, parallel parking, and inspecting over 200 points on the 72-feet long vehicles.
"We get a well-rounded taste of what it's going to be like in the real world of trucking," said Wolfgram. "They do a good job here preparing you for what you need to know out on the road, situations that you're going to run into."
Wolfgram sees advantages in joining a field with lots of available positions.
"It's especially important in areas where you don't have a lot of newcomers," said Wolfgram. "There's a lot of retiring workforce, especially in the utility industry."
Instructors like Michael Sewell at Northcentral Technical College have decades of experience in the truck-driving industry.
They take a hands-on approach, making sure the drivers they send on the roads know how to stay safe alongside Wisconsin families.
"I don't want just anybody driving a truck around them, so I want to have a hand in making sure that the people driving the large vehicles around here are as safe as they can possibly be," said Sewell.
Students make road trips across the Northwoods to cities like Antigo, Minocqua, Wausau, and Rhinelander.
"Just accessibility for students is nice," said Bratz. "I live in the Wausau area so it's real easy for me to sign up for classes and get to school."