Keeping The Country Moving

By Robert Lerose 

Published in Summer 2022 By Lehigh Carbon Community College

Russell Lande has taken a circuitous route to his new career as a truck driver, a 2021 graduate of the Lehigh Carbon Community College Commercial Drivers License training. “I don’t think people realize how truly important and necessary truck drivers are to their everyday lives.” Lande is in the perfect position to see the vital role truckers play, thanks to a lifechanging opportunity from Lehigh Carbon Community College and the federal government. 

Under a program administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation, LCCC received $193,677 in funding for their commercial driver’s license (CDL) course. The grant provides scholarships valued at more than $5,000 each to former and current military service members for training to obtain a commercial trucking license. 

Lande, 56, built his career on serving others. From 1991 to 1993, he was on active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard stationed out of Portsmouth, Va., followed by six years in the reserves. Lande participated in drug raids in the southern Atlantic Ocean and rescued Haitians during the refugee crisis of the early 1990s. In 1995, he achieved his dream job of becoming a police officer, spending 25 years on patrol in Bethlehem, Pa. 

While working as an officer, he began substitute teaching in grades K-6, and along the way earned a master’s degree and teaching certificate. When the pandemic hit and prospects of landing a teaching position dried up, Lande looked into truck driving.

“The truck driving thing was on my short list of things that I wanted to do. I hemmed and hawed for a while. I didn’t see anything that was really affordable, but then saw this grant for military vets to go to LCCC.” 

The CDL program lasted four weeks, beginning with classroom instruction and then moving to direct experience on the road. “It was a little nerve-wracking getting behind the wheel to drive the truck for the first time,” Lande said. 

Those nerves were well earned. Among other things, Lande had to learn how to operate the truck’s manual stick shift. Unlike a car, the truck had 10 gears. He had to move through the gears within seconds, otherwise the truck would come to a dead halt. He was also drilled in multiple safety processes, such as the proper unhooking of air lines before uncoupling the tractor from the trailer. Air lines have been known to snap and kill drivers. 

The program was unquestionably challenging, Lande said. Neither he nor any of his classmates had ever driven a tractor trailer before, but that didn’t stop the instructors from making him “face his fears.” If anything, their direct but understanding approach built his confidence. For example, he remembers having an impossible time learning how to back up and dock his 53-foot trailer, which included making an L with his vehicle without going into other lanes. 

At one point, Lande shut the engine, climbed down from his cab, and stalked off supremely frustrated. That’s when one of his instructors pulled him aside to say that he was proud of Lande for taking the time to cool off and reassess the situation. The instructor’s boost was enough to get Lande to try again and eventually nail it.   

Besides giving high marks to his instructors for knowing when to prod and to pull back, Lande appreciated how well organized the CDL program and the LCCC campus facilities were. “You definitely get your money’s worth,” he said.   

Today, Lande works for FedEx three days a week—as a floater Thursday and Friday and on a regular route on Saturday. On his weekend runs to Newark International Airport, he has delivered everything from blood and live animals to body parts and COVID vaccines. In May 2022, during the baby formula shortage, Lande was part of a five-truck convoy that offloaded 100,000 pounds of Gerber baby formula at Dulles International Airport and delivered it to a Nestlé warehouse in Breinigsville, Pa.
“That always sticks out in my mind that I’m transporting all this stuff that’s going to be distributed all over the country or even maybe the world. It’s really cool. I’m part of all that. To me, the whole process is amazing,” Lande said. 

Lande is also opening the eyes of a new generation. When he subs in elementary schools, he’ll show pictures of the trucks and tell the kids that many of his fellow drivers are women and can do anything male drivers do—something that many had never heard before.
“Prior to this job, I knew [truckers] ran everything we buy to and from, but I didn’t realize how integral a part of the supply chain and the process they are. That’s why this grant is so important to get people into this profession,” Lande said. “I love my job. It’s helping so many others. That makes me feel really good. I owe all of it right now to that grant because it got me that CDL.”

For more information on the CDL program including grant opportunities, contact CDL Admissions Representative Jack Bruer at 610-799-1704 or