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Veterans in Trucking - A Career After Your Service

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Veterans, most of us could never imagine the experiences you’ve been through. You’ve bravely served to protect us, which allows America its status quo. For that, we cannot thank you enough. Now that you’ve moved from one of the most crucial roles in our nation, it’s time to think about the future. Have you considered a career in trucking? Forbes listed trucking as one of the top 10 best jobs for veterans, and for good reason! Learn more about the advantages for veterans in CDL training.

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Looking to Veterans to Reduce the Trucker Shortage

"I think there's no higher calling for an American than to serve in our armed forces, and driving a truck, delivering America's most essential goods safely, is also a high calling."Bill Graves, ATA president and CEO

It’s no secret that veterans often find it difficult to obtain employment post-active duty, and especially in a secure position with steady income. And at this moment, the U.S. trucking industry is facing a shortage of drivers that’s expected to grow into the high six figures. It only makes sense that veterans and trucking work together to solve these problems—each has a need perfectly met by the other. You, as a veteran, have wide-open options in the trucking industry. (many trade school programs require your technical know how and focus too! STEM careers are the future)

Commonly, servicemembers have already been trained to drive heavy vehicles. If not, you can easily be taught due to your active duty experience. For veterans, receiving training as a truck driver is reasonably fast and gets you to quickly transition to a new career. Companies, such as J.B. Hunt and its "Hunt's Heroes" program, are working hard to thank you for your service by getting you employed. J.B. Hunt's program specifically lasts just eight weeks and covers training costs.

And keep in mind, trucking careers aren’t isolated to driving only. Administrative and mechanical are just two of the other roles possible to train for and take part in. Whether you want to work at a desk, underneath a truck, or inside the cabin, the industry has a spot for you, making veterans and trucking a win-win situation.

Veterans Make Excellent Truck Drivers

"There's a lot of similarities between what [servicemen and women] do in the military and what the trucking industry does, and that's regardless of what their military occupation or specialty is."Bill McLennan, FASTPORT CEO

There are many reasons the trucking industry, as a whole, is looking for veterans. Already mentioned is the fact that many veterans are highly skilled at driving and operating heavy trucks and machinery. Familiarity helps ease the transition from active military to driving a truck. In addition, you have created and honed a knowledge and skill base that qualifies you to be a trucker:

  • Team player: Military members are part of an important team. It’s how they function. Being a truck driver is similar to being in the military in that you work together for the common good. Military missions and hauling cargo both are team endeavors.

  • Used to a more mobile lifestyle: You are used to being away from home for months at a time. In trucking, you’re able to be with your family regularly—you are only on the road for days at a time, if that. You also have more liberal access to the Internet and a phone, so you can to skype or call whenever you want, as opposed to set times.

  • Strong work ethic: Military veterans know how important their job is, and they treat it with the respect it deserves. You take responsibility for your actions, and hold yourself accountable. This is exactly the type of ethics a truck driver needs to have.

  • Mental stamina: Veterans are used to being stressed and working long hours. Your ability to stay focused at all times, even when exhausted, is a perfect fit for trucking. Being in the military teaches extreme discipline, which serves drivers well during long treks.

  • Excellent leadership skills: Veterans have learned to take charge and ownership of their actions, a quality so needed in the trucking industry. It gives other truckers someone to look up to and follow. In addition, moving from truck driver to an instructor would be a rather easy career jump with your skill set.

  • Alert and aware: Being alert and aware of your surroundings is something military personnel are trained to be. Knowing what is going on with and around your truck will come naturally to you.

Five Things Veterans Need to Look for in a Carrier

As a veteran, you’re used to working under certain management conditions. You have expectations to be met, and rightfully so. When it comes to trucking companies, not all are created fairly, nor may they share the same set of values as you. So, as a veteran, there are a few things you should pay attention to when looking for a carrier company to work with. When in doubt, talk to other drivers who have been with the carrier company for awhile.

  1. Is the company’s reputation better than decent? Does it treat its drivers well, avoid dishonest operating procedures, and respect its clients? As a veteran, you deserve a company whose reputation is at par with its integrity.

  2. Fair treatment with fair pay. Not all trucking companies provide both. Some pay well but treat their drivers poorly. And vice versa. Find one that fairly provides both pay and treatment.

  3. How is the equipment? The company may guarantee great pay-per-mile, more home time, and steady work. But if the equipment in antiquated and breaks down regularly, you will be left with headaches and stress about meeting pick up times and drop off deadlines. Find a carrier who has a great track record across the board.

  4. Are there opportunities for career advancement? Not only do you need to find out if carriers pay well and respect their drivers, but you also have a right to know if there is a career ladder available, what type of future opportunities are possible, and whether the driving options are a good fit for you.

  5. Does the carrier company participate in the various government programs that are available to U.S. veterans? The best companies for you to work with are those who already have training programs that cater to veterans’ needs. The GI Bill and the VA Apprenticeship Program are just two that were put into place to make it easier for veterans to re-enter civilian life.

About the GI and Military Veteran Government Programs

To be eligible for any type of government program, there are a few criteria that must be met, and each program has its own set of specifications. These programs were created for U.S. veterans in hopes of making it easier for you to re-enter the workforce through a variety of means. There are many trucking companies that participate in these programs. Any program must be approved by the state of residence’s agencies. Always check with your state to make sure the company you’re considering is one of those approved.

  • Military Skills Waiver Program: To facilitate a seamless transition from military to positions in transportation, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration created the Military Skills Test Waiver Program. Military men and women who drove heavy duty vehicles are not required to take the road test portion of their state’s CDL licensing exam. To be eligible for the Military Skills Test Waiver Program, you must be active duty or have received an honorable discharge. You must have at least two years' experience operating any type of commercial vehicle as part of your military position. You must apply for the waiver program within one year of separation from active duty.

  • Military CDL Act of 2012: Generally, the CDL license is given by the state of residence. However, because many military personnel are stationed in other places, the Military CDL Act of 2012 gives special permissions allowing people in the Armed Forces to operate commercial motorized vehicles (CMV) in other states where they are either permanently or temporarily residing.

  • Post-9/11 GI Bill: The post 9/11 GI Bill is for those who served in active duty after September 10, 2001, whether they were actively or honorably discharged, or discharged with a disability. This bill provides for higher education or training programs, and will pay for the education on behalf of the recipient. It also allows for a housing allowance, if necessary. The Post-9/11 GI Bill can be used toward college, university, job training, or trade school.

  • Montgomery GI Bill: The Montgomery GI Bill offers two programs for those enlisted in the U.S. Armed Forces.

    • Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty, or Chapter 30, allows for benefits to active duty members who have enrolled and paid the monthly fee of $100 for 12 months. They are then entitled to receive a monthly education benefit after a required minimum of service. This bill may be used for furthering education on a college, university, trade school, or job-training level. The benefits are usually available for 10 years post-release with an honorable discharge.

    • Montgomery GI Selected Reserve is for those who served in the Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Coast Guard Reserve, Army National Guard, and Air National Guard. Eligibility is determined by the Selected Reserves in whichever form the recipient served, and the VA makes the payments. Thirty six months of education may be available to those who qualify by meeting the requirements.

  • Veterans Administration Apprenticeship Program and On-the-Job Training (OJT): This program was created to help veterans and their dependents learn new skills or trades. This must be done through an approved company or union. The recipients of this program will still be eligible to receive benefits. There are a few different programs and rules with the Veteran’s Administration Apprenticeship Program and OJT Training. To qualify for any of the programs, you must be supervised for 50% of the time, the training must lead to an entry-level position, you must be a paid employee working full time, all training must be documented, you must never have had any training in the field you’re entering, you must be a recent hire with a minimum of six months of training, and the employee may be private, local, or state government.

    • OJT Training when using the Post 9/11 Bill: For the first six months of training, you will receive 100% of your housing stipend, 80% for the following six months, 60% for the third six month set, 40% for the fourth sixth set of six months, and 20% for the remainder of your training.

    • OJT Training using the Active Duty GI Bill: For the first six months of training, you will receive $1,372.95 each month, $1,021.35 per month for the following six months, and then $649.95 per month for the remainder of your training.

    • OJT Training using the Reserve GI Bill: For the first six months of training, you will receive $276.75 per month, $202.95 for an additional six months, and $129.15 per month for the remainder of your training.

To receive any of the above benefits, there are forms you must fill out. There is the VA Form 22-1990, which is applicable if you’ve never used the veteran benefits before, and the VA Form 22-5490, which is for eligible dependents. If you’ve used the veteran benefits before, the form you’d need to fill out is the VA Form 22-1995, and for your eligible dependents, the VA Form 22-5495. It’s quickest to fill these out and submit them online. All the forms can be found here.

Read the Guide To The GI Bill: What It's Used For & How To Apply

Scholarships

There is quite a wide array of resources for veterans looking to trucking as a career. Beyond scholarships and other financial aid opportunities, there are programs available to help ease the transition and find a permanent position.

  • Hiring America is a TV series with the goal of connecting veterans with compatible jobs, as well as helping them assimilate into a civilian career.

  • Hiring our Heroes and the Hiring Our Heroes Fellowship Program are programs created by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation to help transition our country’s heroes, the men, and women who serve in the military, by helping them and their families find employment.

  • FASTPORT, selected by the Hiring Our Heroes program for its Veteran Employment Advisory Council (VEAC), was created to help “educate, hire, and inspire transitioning military service members on the career opportunities in the trucking industry.” True to its word, the group has gotten well over 150,000 commitments from trucking carrier companies.

  • Part of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act assists veterans in easing into their transition to becoming a truck driver.

  • Trucking Track is a mentoring program that will help veterans and their families find careers in the trucking industry.

To find out more about trucking as a career in general and what options it holds, please check out this article.

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