Florida Gateway College and North Florida College CDL Programs Offer Affordable Path to High-Demand Careers  

LAKE CITY, Fla. (May 22, 2024) – Since Fall of 2021, Florida Gateway College has prepared students to earn their CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) and begin promising careers in the high-demand industry of commercial truck driving. In 2017, North Florida College, a fellow Florida College System institution, started its first specialized CDL class in partnership with local employers in the logging industry.  

Together, the two small-town colleges provided affordable, high-quality training to students and a highly qualified workforce to an industry in need of drivers. 

FGC and NFC offer easy access to multiple cities and active shipping hubs in the Southeast. Each are located near two major interstate highways, I-10 and I-75, which places them at the heart of one of the U.S.’s most prominent freight and transportation corridors. Both colleges are near major cargo ports on both the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. 

By enrolling at these state colleges, students receive training that meets the highest of industry standards while saving thousands of dollars over commercially available CDL training programs. Over the course of the programs, students can total up to 1000 miles behind the wheel, versus as little as 200 miles offered by other schools. Students also have access to crucial advising and student support services and resources that come with attending a Florida College System institution. 

Growing industry demand driving higher salaries and better opportunities 

According to the American Trucking Association, there is an estimated shortage of 80,000 truck drivers in the United States, with the shortage projected to grow to 160,000 by 2030. Increased annual freight tonnage and an aging workforce are major contributors to this potential crisis. 

As an older generation of truckers reaches retirement, and with demand for drivers high and continuing to grow, qualified candidates are well positioned to command impressive starting salaries and benefits. As of 2023, drivers who complete CDL programs at Florida colleges are earning an average salary of $52,628 one year after graduation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2022, drivers in the top 10% are earning upwards of $75,000 per year. 

Industry partner support helps rural college CDL programs thrive 

Major players in the commercial trucking industry know that graduates of CDL programs at FGC and NFC receive the highest-quality training and are ready to enter the workforce. Because of this, these industry partners join forces with the colleges to help produce the next generation of truck drivers. 

With the support of industry partners like Pritchett Trucking and Werner Enterprises, FGC’s program is able to offer top-tier educational materials, equipment, and facilities. Upon graduation and licensure, students are perfectly positioned to fill increasingly in-demand truck driving positions in the region and across the country. 

“The CDL program at Florida Gateway College has consistently offered high-quality candidates due to the stringent course demands and their commitment to quality and safety,” said Kristi McCallister, Driver Recruiter for Pritchett Trucking. “We are grateful for the local program that is like-minded in preparing drivers for a successful and safe career in the trucking industry.” 

Last year, with the support of partner Werner Enterprises, FGC was able to add a newly acquired tractor trailer. Werner helped locate a truck in their fleet that had already been modified for student training, offered the vehicle at a generous discount. After delivery, Werner’s technicians inspected the truck and ensured that it was in prime condition to provide industry standard training to FGC’s CDL students. 

In 2015, employers in the logging industry approached NFC to help address the shortage of qualified and experienced truck drivers. NFC then partnered with local businesses, CareerSource North Florida, and the State of Florida to provide a specific CDL-Class A training not readily available in other CDL programs. 

Since 2017, the NFC’s CDL-Class A program specializes in logging, where students receive real-world experience by going to the jobsite, getting into and out of the logging area, loading and strapping the load, hauling the load on public roadways, and eventually to a mill, where they need to follow directions to successfully unload.  

“The companies we partner with spend time in our classes presenting and they offer internships,” said Don Hasson, NFC CDL Instructor. “A student will spend just three months in the program then start a career making between $50,000 to $80,000 a year. Through this partnership, employers now receive experienced new hires ready to work. It’s a win-win.” 

Business partners of NFC donate proceeds from each student-driven load to the North Florida College Foundation, which ensures the program remains successful. Scholarships are created from these designated funds to financially help future students get started towards their certification.  

 About the programs 

Located at the college’s Avery & Twyla Roberts School of Public Service in Olustee, Florida, FGC’s 11-week program provides 320 clock-hours of training both in the classroom and in the cab of an 18-wheel tractor trailer. Course material covers all safety issues, federal rules and regulations, as well as hands-on training, including on FGC’s 280,000-square-foot driving pad and perimeter roads, part of the college’s expansive public service training complex in Olustee. 

Since its inception in 2021, 105 students have completed FGC’s program with the most recent graduation rate for 2022-23 reaching 91 percent. 

Many students enrolled in NFC’s CDL Class A or B programs in Madison, Florida are adults seeking a career change, all while working full-time to provide for their families. NFC has responded by scheduling its 12-week, 320 clock-hour instruction Friday through Sunday. Like FGC, instruction is held both in the classroom and on the road. In addition to licensing, NFC has opportunities for students to earn a CDL Class B certification, and Hazmat, Passenger and School Bus Endorsements. 

Now in its 19th term, NFC boasts an overall average graduation rate of 87 percent, with 100 percent completion from its 2023 summer cohort.  



Florida Gateway College CDL students receive instruction on how to troubleshoot potential issues while on the road. 


Getting an early start to class at the logging site, NFC CDL student, Coydrick Cray, stands with NFC CDL instructor, Don Hasson, and NFC company partner, Jerry Gray of Gray Logging. (L to R: NFC CDL Student Coydrick Cray, NFC CDL Instructor Don Hasson, Gray Logging, LLC, Manager Jerry Gray)


An NFC CDL student takes a break between course work and hands-on learning to pose for a picture with one of NFC’s semi-trucks.


An FGC CDL student takes a moment to smile for the camera while training on FGC’s 280,000-square-foot driving pad.