Trucking Industry Turns to Veterans to Fill Driver Gaps!
VetOpps Act Removes Industry Barriers
Two US Senators are working hard to open the gates for thousands of veterans to have an easier time entering the trucking industry. By removing barriers from federal regulators, the Senators are hoping that their bill will encourage veterans to consider becoming commercial drivers. In October 2015, US Reps Rob Woodall (R-GA) and Tim Walz (D-Minn) introduced the Veterans Trucking Expanded Opportunities Act (VetOpps bill, HR 3739) which would allow Veterans Administration physicians to perform medical exams that are required by the Department of Transportation in order to obtain a CDL.
“Trucking has always been an attractive career option when veterans return to civilian life and they should not have to deal with a mountain of red tape in order to enter or remain in the industry,” said Todd Spencer, Executive Vice President of OOIDA.
Last year in 2014, new federal regulations specified that only allow a small number of physicians could legally perform DOT physicals. The current legislation requires that a practitioner be listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME), which involves a costly and time-consuming process for physicians that are already in high demand.
“We thank the sponsors of this bill for supporting small-business truckers with this legislation since current rules have raised costs unnecessarily and possibly even taken some of the safest drivers off the roads,” said Spencer. “Small-businesses make up the majority of the industry and have the safest drivers. With more than a third of truckers having been veterans, we should make it easier, not harder, for them to keep working or stay in business.”
“The need for safe roads and sound infrastructure isn’t a partisan issue, and today’s progress is a result of a lot of hard work by the members of this Committee,” said Rep. Woodall. “Providing long-term certainty and solutions for the American people is priority number one, and we took a very significant step in the right direction today. I’m eager to see this legislation come to the House Floor for a vote, and ultimately make its way to the President’s desk for signature.”
No Cost & Low Cost CDL Training
Commercial driving schools and training programs are actively seeking ways to attract veterans by reviving federal grant systems that have been in place in 2005. Lancaster Country Career and Technology Center (LCCTC) in Pennsylvania recently received a $194,800 federal grant that will cover 80% of tuition and fees for military veterans and their spouses. To offer an even more lucrative option to veterans, LCCTC will cover the remaining associated costs, making CDL training completely free for veterans.
The grant was part of nearly $2.3 million that the FMCSA awarded to 13 technical and community colleges across the country in 2015 to provide veterans and their families with training to become commercial truck drivers.
“We support job opportunities for veterans who have served our country, but not only because it is the right thing to do, it also makes good sense,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in announcing the grants. “One of the most important, fastest growing employment sectors is for qualified commercial vehicle drivers and veterans bring invaluable experience to the industry and can enter the workforce quickly.”
The FMCSA’s Commercial Motor Vehicle – Operator Safety Training (CMV-OST) grant program provided the funding for the grant. Congress created CMV-OST in 2005 in order to expand the number of CDL holders that have enhanced safety training courses under their belt. This training could potentially reduce the severity and number of crashes involving large trucks and buses.
In July 2014, FMCSA expanded the Military Skills Test Waiver Program to all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The program gives state licensing agencies the ability to waive the skills test portion of the CDL application for active duty or recently discharged veterans who possess at least two years of safe driving experience operating a military truck or bus. Waiving this portion of the test speeds up the CDL licensing application process and also reduces costs for both applicants and state licensing agencies.
Veterans Fill Driver Shortage Gaps
Recruiting US Veterans could be an answer to filling gaps left by the national truck driver shortage, which has increased from 35,000 needed drivers in 2014 to nearly 50,000 in 2015 according to the American Trucking Associations recent reports. Veterans may have built-in advantages when it comes to operating commercial vehicles and adapting to the truck driver lifestyle. It’s a highly regimented, structured job that often requires some time away from home and it calls for self-disciplined workers.
Out of 573,000 unemployed veterans in 2014, 96% fit age requirements for commercial driving with only 4% of unemployed veterans being under 25 years of age. This makes for a unique opportunity to recruit and retain potentially high quality new drivers that can help address the national truck driver shortage with an influx of new Veteran applicants.