Program could allow veterans to translate military experience into truck driving careers

Employing veterans while helping solve the truck driver shortage? Sounds like a win-win situation.

The looming truck driver shortage is having a negative impact on the industry, impeding the booming demand for trucks. The American Trucking Association noted last year that the trucking industry is short 50,000 drivers… and the need for drivers isn’t letting up anytime soon

In fact, the trucking industry needs 100,000 more new drivers per year for the next 10 years to address the industry-wide driver shortage, according to Kevin Burch, immediate past ATA chairman.

As directed by Section 5404 of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced in July that 18 - 20-year-olds with the U.S. military equivalent of a commercial driver license will be allowed to operate large trucks in interstate commerce.

This program will allow our veterans and reservists to translate their extensive training into good-paying jobs operating commercial vehicles safely across the country, while also addressing the nationwide driver shortage.
— Elaine Chao, transportation secretary

While Chao failed to note exactly when the program could end, she mentioned the program would monitor these drivers’ safety records for up to three years.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration must allow a public comment period, as well as gain approval from the White House office of Management and Budget before plans for this program can be published in the Federal Register.

All drivers hired under this stipulation will be monitored by FMCSA-approved motor carriers to fulfill program guidelines, according to a recent FMCSA press release.

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The plan for this program is to compare safety records of the ex-military drivers to those of a control group of drivers. 

If one of the drivers in the program is at any time disqualified for a grievous offense, severe traffic violation, railroad-highway grade crossing or any out-of-service order violation, the driver will be taken out of the program.

To participate in the limited-availability program, drivers must be between the ages of 18-20 years old. They must also have military training in one of seven occupational specialties:

·     Army motor transport operator

·     Army fueler

·     Air Force vehicle operations

·     Air Force fueler

·     Air force pavement and construction

·     Navy equipment operator

·     Marine Corps motor vehicle operator

Drivers in this pilot program would not be permitted to haul hazardous materials or passengers.

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This announcement has been a long time coming for its chief architect, Sen. Deb Fischer (R – Neb.), who originally advocated for this program to be looped into the 2015 transportation law.

As a program that could potentially help young veterans, this well-timed announcement came the day before our nation celebrated its independence.

“As our nation prepares to celebrate Independence Day, Secretary Chao and I were excited to highlight a program I helped champion to provide truck driver jobs to young veterans,” Fischer said.