Center News /
April 5, 2022

Minnesota State Launches New CDL Training Program

Minnesota State has launched a new CDL training program called the Minnesota State Commercial Driver Academy. The new school is an innovative multi-campus collaboration between Anoka-Ramsey Community College, Saint Paul College, and Dakota County Technical College (DCTC), along with assistance from The Minnesota State Transportation Center of Excellence, the Minnesota State system office, and strong industry partnerships.   

“Like the rest of the nation, Minnesota is facing a shortage of qualified truck drivers.” Said Devinder Malhotra, chancellor of Minnesota State. “The Commercial Driver Academy is an excellent example of our colleges working together in innovative ways to meet the state’s workforce needs.” 

The Commercial Driver Academy is an excellent example of our colleges working together in innovative ways to meet the state’s workforce needs.

Devinder Malhotra

Jonathan Rymer, Program Director and experienced CDL trainer, along with Program Navigator Nicole Qualley head up the effort and are doing amazing work getting students to find success in the transportation industry. Currently, all CDL-A heavy tractor trailer training occurs at DCTC in Rosemount, Mn.

The Commercial Driver Academy program is a customized series of courses that meet Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) requirements and is registered on the FMCSA’s training provider registry. Students who have good credit or a co-signer have the option to finance the $5,000 tuition via a Sallie Mae student loan, which is a rare opportunity for a non-credit offering. The training consists of two weeks of flex-pace online instruction followed by four weeks or 160 hours of hands-on instruction with an instructor-to-student ratio not to exceed 1:4. Equipment for the project has been provided in partnership with Cemstone, Taylor Truck Line and Dart Transit, which have donated and/or leased trucks and trailers for training. Moreover, these partners have agreed to hire qualified graduates of the program, provide on-the-job training and even offer tuition reimbursement to facilitate a smooth transition into employment.

In addition, the Commercial Driver Academy is partnering with a number of community-based organizations to aid in recruitment and/or funding including Ujamaa Place, Volunteers in Corrections, Dakota County Jail, Ramsey County Corrections, Department of Corrections, Twin Cities RISE, CareerForce, Workforce Development Incorporated, Goodwill Easter Seals, Free Writers, Twin Cities Adult Education Alliance, CLUES, Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, and Teamsters.

There has been a great deal of interest in the new program, with 87 documented inquiries in the month of January alone. Since the ELDT mandate went into effect on 2/7/22, inquiry volume has increased even more. Training is actively taking place with many students working through the online theory course, while those who have completed the online theory successfully, obtained a CLP and provided all DQ file material are invited onto the campus in groups of four to begin behind-the-wheel training as truck and instructor availability allows. Students learn and must demonstrate proficiency in pre-trip inspection, driving, backing, and maneuvering skills before becoming eligible to take their CDL skills test at a DVS testing location as a final part of the course. The program navigator helps to see students through from admission to successful placement at a carrier.

Pictured from left to right- students Fowsi Mohammed, Porfirio Carranza, Program Manager Jonathan Rymer, Renata Diaz Geniz, and Anthony Agyekum.

The program has plans for expansion by adding CDL-B training to the Saint Paul College campus and a hot shot/light duty CDL-A program to be held on the Anoka-Ramsey Community College campus. These expansions are being delayed due to a lack of either instructors or industry partners. The commercial driver academy is actively seeking applications for additional instructors to meet current and future demand. Instructors must have at least two years of verifiable experience with the type of vehicle they plan to train with per ELDT standards. Lastly, the program has applied for federal funding from the US Department of Commerce to secure the resources needed to do additional trainings for specific companies. Examples would include city/county government workers who need a CDL license as part of their job.

The ELDT mandate creates both challenges and opportunities for schools around the state. The Minnesota State Commercial Driver Academy seeks to meet those challenges and seize those opportunities in order to provide more qualified and proficient drivers into the workforce. Continued innovation and strong industry partnerships will make that a reality.

To learn more about becoming a partner in this work and helping to develop a pipeline of talent into the industry, contact Jonathan Rymer at [email protected].