Coca-Cola makes donation to boost truck driver training in Georgia

The Technical College System of Georgia says a $1 million donation from Coca-Cola will allow it to add 11 full-time and 2 part-time truck driving instructors. (Emil Moffatt/WABE)

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola is donating a million dollars to bolster commercial truck driving programs at Georgia’s technical colleges.

It comes as the country continues to deal with a shortage of truck drivers.

Greg Dozier, commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia says there have been times in recent years when hundreds of students interested in earning a Commercial Driver’s License, or CDL, have been turned away because the schools just didn’t have enough resources.

“And this million dollars is really going to allow us to hire 11 additional full-time instructors as well as two part-time, and almost double our capacity across the state,” said Dozier.

That increase comes at a critical time. The trucking industry has been losing drivers to retirement for years. The pandemic made the scarcity even worse.

“We’re experiencing this CDL driver shortage every day,” said Crawford Jones with Coca-Cola UNITED a bottler that delivers Coke products.

Jones says they’re constantly recruiting from the state’s 19 technical colleges that offer training for commercial truck drivers.

“We’ve found that the drivers that come from TCSG really meet our level that we demand to hire,” he said.

In addition to private donations like this one from Coca-Cola, the state of Georgia has also boosted funding over the last two years to help the state’s technical colleges put more truck drivers on the road.

Mark Rahiya, an executive who oversees supply chain operations and innovation for Coca-Cola, says the donation represents an investment in the company’s home state. But he says, it’s more than that.

“It’s also a state with a thriving and growing economy,” said Rahiya. “We need to do the things that enable this economy and our system to keep growing. And one of the critical areas right now for the U.S. and the state of Georgia is the availability of commercial drivers.”