|InCab University Could Boost Recruitment|
Note: Lane Balance Systems operated under the name AIMS Express from 2004 To 2007.
Classes start next week at the newly launched InCab University, now offering associate degrees and certificates. The program will offer a bachelor's degree in mid-2007. Accredited by the Tennessee Board of Regents, the program will offer classes specifically designed for truck drivers, who can do 100% of the coursework online as well as listen to lectures while on the road.
"We've had tremendous response from individual drivers and fleets," says director Jon Ricketts. So far, U.S. Express and Covenant Transport, both headquartered in Chattanooga, have signed agreements with InCab to provide higher education for their drivers. At least one fleet in Memphis has already expressed interest, Ricketts says.
According to a survey InCab U commissioned before launch, 77% of the 226 truck drivers polled said they would be interested in furthering their education if a program of InCab's nature was available at their company.
As turnover rates soar well above 100% annually and the driver shortage peaks at 120,000 drivers nationally, trucking companies are looking for more ways to reward loyal truckers and recruit prospective ones. Even though truckers may leave the company once they obtain a college degree, keeping them for four years is considered an achievement. "Retaining a truck driver for two to four years is quite a lot," says Jeff Owen, president of AIMS Express, the trucking arm of Collierville-based AIMS Logistics.
Enrollment in classes at InCab U is open year-round, and a typical class takes 16 weeks to complete. Drivers can earn associate degrees in six concentrations, including transportation management. Such a degree could help trucking companies promote from within. "A dispatcher with road experience will be a plus," Owen says. "We'd consider paying for their associate degree." One credit hour costs $225, according to Ricketts, and 60 credit hours are required for an associate degree, which translates into an overall $13,500 benefit for truck drivers. 150 students have already enrolled and Ricketts expects a total of 600 students to be enrolled by the end of 2006. Unlike other online universities, InCab's instructors undergo an orientation program that ensures they understand the special needs and lifestyle of truckers.
"It is important for the professors to understand the challenge drivers face over the road," Ricketts says. "It's tough out there."Stephen Fraser, a student enrolled in InCab U's Covenant Transport pilot program, calls the program "an educational opportunity of a lifetime." "When I'm on the road, I don't have to resign myself to watching television or listening to the radio every night," he says. "I have a challenge, a purpose, something to work towards."
Mike Hopper, CFO of Memphis-based Ozark Motor Lines, says about 75% of his truckers own a laptop for a host of purposes that don't include education. "They mostly use it for entertainment and information -- city guides, maps and news," he says.