The movement of freight and products is constant. The American Trucking Associations estimates trucks hauled nearly 10 billion tons of freight in 2014. The freight reached America’s retail stores, restaurants, grocery stores, etc., proving that the trucking industry is crucial to the sustainment of our economy. And with a shortage of drivers, now hitting 35,000 to 40,000 drivers in the truckload sector, recruiting and retaining talent to transport our goods is more important than ever.
To combat the driver shortage issue, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has been recruiting new drivers from the talented pool of U.S. veterans and their spouses. The Commercial Motor Vehicle-Operator Safety Training (CMV-OST) grant program was established ten years ago by Congress through the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) in order to give America’s commercial drivers more and better safety training. One of the main goals of CMV-OST has been to help military families. And last year, two policy changes enhanced that goal: the Military Skills Test Waiver Program, which allows states to waive the skills test for veterans who drove trucks for the military, has been expanded to all 50 states. And secondly, returning military service members with a limb impairment and an accompanying Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) certificate will be able to go through a simplified process to obtain an interstate commercial driver’s license (CDL), as the veteran SPE certificate will be recognized as the equivalent of the FMCSA’s SPE certificate.
This year also marks a substantial expansion of the grant program, with the total amount awarded more than doubling from $1 million in 2014, to $2.3 million this year. The number of recipient programs, all technical or community colleges, increased from ten to 14.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) recognizes the valuable skill-set veterans can bring to the trucking profession. DOT Secretary Anthony Fox states, “We can think of none more appropriate to safeguard our highways as commercial vehicle drivers than the thousands of veterans who have already proven they can safely handle large vehicles under extremely stressful circumstances.”
In addition to government support, private organizations and non-profits such as hirepatriots.com, also help veterans find their way into trucking by holding job fairs or offering other supportive services. Some carriers have reached out to veterans through focused recruitment drives and by offering special training programs or benefits such as a higher starting pay rate for drivers with military experience.
Combating the driver shortage issue will certainly take time. But, by incorporating veterans into the driver talent pool, their specialized skills and training from their job in the service can certainly be a great asset to safely trucking on America’s highways.