MONTGOMERY (May 9, 2023 )– Residents and businesses with workers waiting to train in truck driver programs at Alabama’s community and technical colleges may be able to do so sooner, thanks to a historic donation from Coca-Cola Bottling Company United (UNITED) on Tuesday.
UNITED donated two 16-bay side-load, manual transmission trucks to the Alabama Community College System (ACCS) during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at UNITED on Tuesday, May 9. The donation was the first such investment made by UNITED to a community college system. The company operates facilities throughout Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
Gianetta Jones, UNITED Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer, said the donation is the result of a discussion two years ago with ACCS regarding the need for more trucks to train Alabama drivers. As with many products across the nation post-pandemic, truck orders by ACCS colleges were backlogged for several months at a time when the number of students training for truck driving careers increased.
Truck driving is among the fastest growing programs in the ACCS. Alabama’s community colleges have more than 20 truck driving programs. Nearly 10,000 residents sought credentials within these programs in the last five years.
In addition to truck driver programs at the colleges, ACCS partners with local businesses and industry for free, customized CDL training through the ACCS Innovation Center’s Skills for Success. More than 1,100 residents – including UNITED drivers – have registered for CDL A training through Skills for Success, which started last year.
According to the Alabama Trucking Association (ATA), trucking represents 125,000 jobs in Alabama, which is one of every 13 jobs in the state. ATA estimates the average annual salary for a professional truck driver is $70,000.
Jones said both the donated trucks are outside the life cycle for UNITED’s fleet but are still valuable for both on-road and off-road manual transmission CDL training. In addition to helping certify the dozens of UNITED workers who go through UNITED’s own truck driver training program, Jones said UNITED is confident the trucks will benefit residents throughout Alabama who are seeking their CDL.
“The opportunity to pour into the future of Alabama in a way that helps meets the needs of our associates, customers and communities through the Alabama Community College System is indicative of the culture of Coca-Cola United, and we are blessed to be able to do so,” Jones said. “Our hope is that the availability of these trucks can help increase class sizes and put more people in the trucks which, in turn, results in more people being able to earn a living for their families.”
Walter Moses, a UNITED employee who completed training at Trenholm State Community College in Montgomery, thanked the college and UNITED for an opportunity to train and change careers.
“Before now, I drove a forklift. I was very comfortable driving a truck after my training at Trenholm, and I am now working in a career that I can see myself retiring from,” he said.
The announcement of the truck donation comes as the ACCS celebrates it 60th anniversary, called the Diamond Jubilee.
“For 60 years the Alabama Community College System has existed to meet the workforce needs of Alabama, and how we do that must always be to the beat of the businesses and industry who employ the workers we are training,” said Jimmy H. Baker, Chancellor of the Alabama Community College System. “We appreciate Coca-Cola UNITED for its continued commitment to join alongside our colleges for meaningful efforts that strengthen our programs, our students and our communities.”
The trucks donated by UNITED will be housed at Trenholm State and Southern Union State Community College in Opelika. Because the trucks are manual transmission, residents who train on them for a CDL A won’t be restricted to only driving automatic vehicles.
This is a huge benefit to students like Darrel Scott, a retired U.S. Army veteran who is a current student of Trenholm State’s truck driving program.
“I spoke to many alumni and students of this program and realized that it was worth a try, and I couldn’t be happier with the excellence I see in the program,” said Scott, who is expected to earn his CDL this month.
“I’ve already purchased a truck and am hoping to one day have my own fleet. To say I got training to start my own business, not even 20 miles away from where I live, really means something.”
About Coca-Cola Bottling Company United
Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, Inc., founded in 1902 and headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, is the second largest privately held Coca-Cola bottler in North America and the third largest bottler of Coca-Cola products in the U.S. Now with its fifth generation of family working in the business, Coca-Cola UNITED has more than 10,000 associates located in more than 50 facilities across six southeastern states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee). Historically significant franchises within our Coca-Cola UNITED family include Chattanooga, the world’s first Coca-Cola bottler; Atlanta, home of the worldwide Coca-Cola System; and Columbus, Georgia, development site of the original Coca-Cola formula.
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