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Following changes to federal training requirements for Commercial Driver’s Licenses, the Franklin Department of Public Works has received federal approval of an internal training program, designed to bring in qualified hires while saving money for employees who need a CDL license.
The CDL training changes, which took effect last February, require applicants to receive training by an approved trainer prior to taking the CDL test — and the cost for the training can be as much as $10,000. Prior to the changes, and for the last 15 years, the town was able to train employees in-house, according to Public Works Director Brutus Cantoreggi.
“It’s very hard to find CDL drivers, so I would hire folks without the license and train them in house,” Cantoreggi said. “It brought in a lot of folks who had permits. … But with the regulation change, we couldn’t find people already licensed for these jobs.”
When Cantoreggi and Environmental Affairs Coordinator Derek Adams examined the federal changes, they found that they could meet the requirements to be a certified trainer and get the training program approved by the federal government. Adams became the town’s point person for the program.
Franklin was the first municipality in the state to get federal approval for a training program, and others have followed suit.
“It worked out last year as we were working on this that we were going through collective bargaining and were able to get the union to buy into it,” Cantoreggi said. “The union is providing two trainers that management approves, and they are paid overtime to train our drivers after hours.”
After going through the training program, which includes federally mandated training hours and a quiz, trainees go to the Registry of Motor Vehicles for approval and then on to the State Police for testing.
The town has four employees in the program now, and Cantoreggi said he has gotten good feedback from the State Police about the program.
“A big part of having this training in house is if we had an employee who wanted that CDL, they would have to take time off to do that,” Adams said. “When they come to us with a CDL permit, they can work and get paid while on probation, then spend their time after hours doing that training, so there is not lost time off of work. … We’re not waiting to hire somebody while they go get that training elsewhere. We can hire people quickly that way.”
With the difficulties that municipalities are facing in finding qualified employees, Cantoreggi noted that the program gives the town an edge over the private sector.
“This has huge value for the town because you can come work for me without your CDL, but you want to get your CDL, and it’s not going to cost you $10,000,” he said.
Cantoreggi said that there has been some interest from other towns in having Franklin train their employees, so his department is looking into the possibility, though there are obstacles to consider, including union requirements and liability concerns.
For towns interested in developing their own training program, Adams said the first step is registering your program with the federal government and having someone with a CDL to oversee the program.
“You really need someone to take the lead on it and stay with it,” Cantoreggi said.