OREANDA-NEWS. Meritor, Inc. (NYSE:MTOR) has contributed approximately $120,000 to Focus: HOPE to give Detroit residents a new beginning and support the trucking industry's need for qualified drivers through a commercial truck driver training program.

"We're excited by the opportunities this partnership provides the students and the commercial trucking industry," said Jay Craig, Meritor CEO and president, who serves on the Focus: HOPE Board of Directors. "This funding is developing qualified drivers who want to pursue truck driving as a career with highly respected companies, including our fleet customers. We see tremendous potential in this program."

To date, 24 drivers have graduated from this extensive, two-phase program. Graduates have secured employment at a variety of locations, including the City of Detroit, Detroit Manufacturing, Faygo, Kinnie Transportation Group, Lumetta Distribution Co., Rizzo Environmental Services and T.K.M.S.

"Every fleet in the industry is in need of qualified drivers," said Rob Reich, senior vice president, Equipment, Maintenance & Driver Recruiting at Schneider National. "We appreciate that Meritor is seeking innovative ways to dedicate funding from the Meritor Trust to not only help the industry, but also to help individuals who need a fresh start. The industry needs drivers who are trained and who understand the demands of this business. Truck drivers work hard and they make great wages that allow them to have a good life." 

Addressing the National Truck Driver Shortage
According to a report published last October by the American Trucking Associations, the nation's current shortage of 48,000 truck drivers has the potential to grow to nearly 175,000 by 2024 as many drivers retire and the industries that depend on qualified drivers continue to expand.

This training is advancing Focus: HOPE's mission to assist underserved populations in Detroit and provide them with meaningful work while also addressing the double-digit unemployment rate in the city. A Bureau of Labor Statistics report published in April 2016 lists Detroit's 24.8 percent unemployment rate as the highest among 50 of the largest cities in the United States. 

Meritor understands this growing problem and is committed to helping the industry – and its customers – find solutions. Although Detroit's unemployment rate is high and many people are looking for work, Focus: HOPE says the program's success depends on finding individuals who not only have the need, but also the drive to succeed. Focus: HOPE and the U.S. Truck Driver Training School in Sterling Heights, Michigan conduct extensive screening before students are admitted to the program.

"Focus: HOPE believes in giving people a second chance," said Linda Tinsley, project manager, Earn and Learn. "We recruit people who have struggled to overcome significant barriers to achieve a full-time job, such as lack of education or job skills, homelessness and poverty. Working with Meritor and the U.S. Truck Driver Training School, we are providing opportunities for people who want to work, create a better life and contribute to the community."

Two-Phase Training Program
In the first phase, students attend work readiness and skills-enhancement programs called Fast Track and Earn and Learn. These programs run three to nine weeks, depending on the student's individual needs. These classes prepare students for the world of work and also help them improve their reading and math skills.

Upon completion, the students are enrolled in the second phase, a 160-hour program at the U.S. Truck Driver Training School. Students attend classroom and on-the-road training sessions that prepare them to earn a commercial truck driver's license. A contribution from the Meritor Trust funds the $10,000 per-student cost of the two phases.

"Although we have a very strong network and team that actively places graduates, bringing Meritor's fleet customers into the mix offers even more potential opportunities for the students," said Tyler LaBarge, vice president, U.S. Truck Driver Training School. "The idea that a supplier company wants to actively help place students is a very positive step toward addressing the shortage of qualified drivers. Meritor clearly wants to be part of the solution."

Upon successful completion of their coursework, students take their final driving exam and are licensed as professional truck drivers. Meritor then helps place the drivers by connecting its fleet customers to students at the U.S. Truck Driver Training School.  

About Focus: HOPE
Focus: HOPE is a nationally recognized civil and human rights organization based in Detroit that is committed to using "intelligent and practical action to overcome racism, poverty and injustice." Its three main areas of focus are a food program, career training programs and community development initiatives. Through Focus: HOPE, thousands of individuals – especially women and minorities – have become financially independent. For more details, visit www.focushope.edu.

About Schneider
One of the largest truckload carriers in North America, Schneider has been the top choice of safety-minded drivers for 80 years. With over 75 percent of its drivers getting home weekly or better, Schneider provides professional opportunities that meet the work-life balance needs of today's drivers and owner-operators. Schneider is a $4 billion company and is ranked a top-paying carrier by the National Transportation Institute. It has been nationally recognized for its support of current and former military personnel.  

About U.S. Truck Driver Training School
U.S. Truck Driver Training School has provided CDL Training since 1994 and was founded by Joseph LaBarge. The first training program offered was with one truck and one instructor. In a short time, the school grew from a two-man operation to a first-class training institution. Accredited by the State of Michigan, the school is an approved third-party CDL testing facility for the State of Michigan. Agencies such as Detroit Workforce Development (DWD), Michigan Works, ACCESS, Focus: HOPE, and JVS helped U.S. Truck Driver Training School flourish as the premier CDL Training provider in the Detroit metropolitan area. USTDTS is headquartered in Sterling Heights, Michigan, where it provides a full range of services including training, job placement assistance, and financial aid.

About Meritor
With more than a 100-year legacy of providing innovative products that offer superior performance, efficiency and reliability, the company serves commercial truck, trailer, off-highway, defense, specialty and aftermarket customers around the world. Meritor is based in Troy, Mich., United States, and is made up of approximately 8,400 diverse employees who apply their knowledge and skills in manufacturing facilities, engineering centers, joint ventures, distribution centers and global offices in 19 countries. Meritor common stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol MTOR.