When trucking companies like Unigroup, Inc., Triple Crown Services or Transport America get ready to hire truck drivers, here is what they want in a driver. Dedication, respect, cleanliness, honor, hard work, diligence, attention to detail, and most importantly, behind the wheel truck driving experience. What if there was a demographic group of truck drivers who fit this perfectly, yet they were often deterred from getting a CDL trucking job?
What if you learned that these truckers were former US military who had served overseas in some of the most dangerous environments truck drivers could work in. Move over ice road truckers, slide out of the way Australian truckies. Our veteran truckers are a valuable source of employment for the US, but first some roadblocks need to be taken care of.
Commercial Driver’s Licenses for Vets
The first problem is getting a commercial driver’s license. As a military trucker you were given a military license to drive a truck. That license does not transfer over into a CDL. As a result, when you return back to the US after being overseas as an active duty soldier, you will not be able to get a trucking job immediately. You will have to start from scratch by getting a CDL.
This is a two-test process involving a written test and a road test. The information required of you is not the same information you would need to know as a military truck driver. The main difference is the focus on truck driver and highway safety, as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) prioritize safety over all else.
To make it easier to get your CDL as a military trucker, the FMCSA has recently amended the requirements for this demographic. The infamous FAST Act that was signed in 2015, and included such regulations as the e-log mandate, also includes the Military Skills Test Waiver Program. This program is vital to helping truck drivers who are former military truckers to get their CDL as soon as possible when they return to the States to a civilian truck driving career. The program:
- Is applicable to military vets who drove heavy duty vehicles while in the military
- Allows these drivers to get their CDL without having to take the road test
- Permits veteran drivers to have an extended time frame after returning from overseas, from 90 days to a new time frame of 12 months, to apply for the skills test waiver
Keep in mind if you wait until after the 1-year waiver period you will have to take the skills/road test in order to get your CDL. If you are recovering from a military injury in a vet hospital, and are unable to work for that 12-month period, speak with your vet affairs resource officer to see if there is a way around this issue. Overall, this program is important for helping vets transition to a commercial truck driver if they are certain that is what they want to do with their career as a civilian. However, it still doesn’t address the issue of behind the wheel experience.
Behind the Wheel Experience
As any truck driver with any experience will tell you, getting hired by a trucking company almost always requires the would-be driver to have behind the wheel experience. Some companies require years of experience, while other companies hire drivers with months of experience pending on the job training and truck driver orientation. Here’s the rub for vets.
They have ample behind the wheel experience, but often this is classified or otherwise nontransferable to a job history. Companies simply don’t know how to translate military experience with commercial driving experience. Part of this is because that’s like comparing apples to bananas. However, veteran truckers clearly have behind the wheel experience; it just needs a valuation to be worthwhile in the commercial sector.
This brings up an important point. While military truck drivers have ample experience driving heavy duty trucks, and possibly Class 8 trucks, the fact of the matter is that military trucking experience isn’t the same as commercial experience. For starters, you have a different set of requirements to comply with to meet DOT standards. When you are a truck driver for a commercial business you also have to learn how to maintain DOT logs and keep up with your hours of service, both of which are safety-related commercial trucking requirements.
There needs to be a balance between trained veterans who are truckers and commercial drivers. A training dedicated to veteran truck drivers who need to fill in the commercial details of their job training would be ideal in this situation. Are you listening, FMCSA?
Military Call to Active Duty
Another often unmentioned issue with hiring military truck drivers is the chance that they will be called in. If a driver gets a military call to active duty they have no choice in the matter, and they are deployed for months at a time. This is a concern for trucking companies that are working to reduce driver turnover and improve retention rates. After all, when you hire and train a truck driver you want to know they will be there for the job for the duration. It is discriminatory to not hire military truck drivers who could be called away to duty, based on this fact.
Unfortunately it happens every day across the country as trucking companies have the right to hire whomever they want in this free country, which is free thanks to the service of military truckers. That’s why it is great to see trucking companies like US Xpress, TMC Transportation and Schneider Trucking provide specialized hiring for truck driving veterans. This is a step in the right direction.