BLOG: Troops to Trucks - Trucking Companies Look to Military Veterans to Address Truck Driver Shortages
According to a 2018 Research in Transportation Economics article, 2015 saw a shortage of close to 45,000 truck drivers, which resulted in US CMV businesses refusing “hundreds of truckload shipments every day." Should rates continue along this trend, CMV operator shortages could reach as high as 174,500 by 2024. Because the US will continue to rely on freight for the foreseeable future, and because demand for freight services are growing rather than remaining constant, some reports estimate that “trucking companies will need to recruit nearly 100,000 new drivers a year over the next decade to keep pace with the country's growing freight needs."
Some law makers and industry leaders are looking toward military veterans as a possible solution to the truck driver deficit. A 2011 report found that 69 percent of veterans who served following 9/11 said that finding a job was their greatest challenge to adjusting to civilian life. This includes veterans who possessed relevant, transferable occupational skills such as truck driving, of which approximately 10,000 military personnel were trained for after 2011. One reason for this barrier is that skills obtained in the military have not traditionally been recognized as applicable to civilian careers, forcing veterans to attend costly and redundant re-training and licensing programs before being able to apply for private CMV jobs.
Over the past several years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has been working to simultaneously address issues of veteran unemployment and the CMV operator shortage. Through the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the FMCSA is providing $1 million in grants to fund programs connecting veterans to commercial bus and truck driving careers. These programs include training for veterans without prior truck driving experience as well as a pilot program that allows select military personnel between the ages of 18 and 20 to waive the age requirement of 21 for operating a CMV in interstate commerce. Furthermore, the FMCSA now allows military veterans to waive a CDL skills test so long as they’ve been “employed within the last 90 days in a military position requiring the operation of a military motor vehicle equivalent to a Commercial Motor Vehicle.”
However, the FAST Act has not been a quick fix. Individual States are still in various stages of implementing the necessary regulations and practices necessary to enact these programs. Additionally, the FAST Act does not apply to current service members and reservists who are otherwise qualified, meaning they must either pay for expensive and redundant training or wait until they are formally classified as a veteran to be eligible. Excluding them means excluding a significant portion of a fully-qualified potential workforce. In order for the programs under the FAST Act to reach their full potential, it will be necessary for states to collaborate, share knowledge and implementation methods, and work toward dismantling the barriers standing between military personnel and careers in CMV operation.