The program also helps the trucking industry meet a critical need for drivers.
CROSSVILLE, Tennessee – A second chance is coming on 18 wheels for some inmates just released from Tennessee state jails, thanks to a new program from a Knoxville trucking company.
TLD Logistics’ Changing Lanes program works with the Correctional Department to recruit drivers behind bars. Once they have served their sentence or been granted parole, the company trains them to drive 18-wheeled vehicles and works with partner organizations to provide accommodation, transportation and food.
âWe felt that where our industry is and what these people are looking for is a good fit for both groups,â said Chris Stephens, Managing Director of TLD Logistics.
For trainee drivers, it offers a life-changing second chance.
“It opened up a lot of doors for me. It gave me the opportunity to have a whole new life,” said driver Stacy Spivey, who spent more than five years in the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex.
“It changed the lives of people around me. I haven’t always been where I needed to be for my family, for my children. And now I can be, and it means the world to me,” said she declared.
Driver Brittany Gunter said she was hesitant to apply for jobs due to her criminal background.
âAnything that comes up with a background check scares me – because my background is not good,â she said.
Stephens said the program gives ex-inmates a chance to work – earning between one and two thousand dollars a week – and allows them to develop a work history.
The Denver Young driver said he appreciates the chance to change his life.
âIt’s time for me to grow up and do something with my life and it gave me this perfect opportunity,â he said.
It is also an advantage for the trucking company, which takes badly needed drivers out of the program. In total, Stephens estimates that the trucking industry needs an additional 80,000 to 100,000 drivers on the road. So far, three dozen ex-convicts are on the program, he said.
âThis could be a viable program for other companies. We hope to be the standard that everyone wants to learn from,â Stephens said.
He described the program as a holistic approach that provides accommodation, transportation and psychological support to help former incarcerates reintegrate into society. If drivers start arriving late for work, for example, he said advisers will be notified and intervene.
âIt says ‘Hey, we’re here with you to walk with you,’â he said. “We are giving them an opportunity, we are here to help them.”
Stephens said the State Department of Corrections would like TLD to expand to program its other sites across the state in the months and years to come.