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Military veterans can make for excellent drivers

Military veterans have the traits to succeed as truck drivers.
/ Industry News & Trends /

By: Phil Sneed

Truck drivers spend a large portion of their job alone. They spend hours on end driving to a location and back, and in that time span, they may only talk to a handful of people. The job is tough, but the rewards are great, as drivers can take satisfaction knowing their contributions keep the U.S. economy moving. According to the American Trucking Association, approximately 10 billion tons of freight were transported in 2014. Behind the massive movement of goods were drivers. Without them, the economy would look vastly different.

Technology has introduced new methods to the trucking industry. For instance, logistics management companies are able to utilize data analytics and advanced computers for a variety of tasks. According to U.S. News & World Report, these systems help drivers find the best route available and reroute them if need be. The number of miles a truck has been driven is also recorded, and with this information, logistics companies can find the best way to transport goods from point A to point B.

"Without truck drivers, the economy would look vastly different."

Unsurprisingly, technology is also threatening to displace hundreds, if not thousands of drivers. Companies are investing in driverless cars and trucks. If those perform well on the road, driverless trucks could become the norm. By most accounts, automated vehicles are still years away. With an ongoing driver shortage, companies are feverishly looking for new employees. It is well known this is an ongoing struggle, but firms may have luck hiring individuals with a certain background.

Why aren't there younger drivers?
The current driver shortage is precipitated by the lack of young drivers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average age of truckers is 47. Part of the issue with attracting younger drivers revolves around a commercial driving license. According to U.S. News & World Report, the minimum age to receive this type of license is 18. However, a driver needs to be at least 21 for interstate transportation, as highlighted by the requirements outlined by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Insurance also deters younger drivers. Young citizens are statistically shown to be involved in more automobile accidents than older drivers, whether they're driving a semi-trailer or passenger vehicle. Insurance companies will typically increase rates as a result. Companies will understandably hire older drivers because of lower insurance rates.  Additionally, truckers with no previous experience will have to be trained how to drive the large vehicle, as well as learn mechanical fixes in case the semi-trailer experiences any problems.

"The current driver shortage is precipitated by the lack of young drivers."

Look toward military veterans
One group may be able to help alleviate the driver shortage. Military veterans have the characteristics to succeed as truck drivers, as highlighted by Fleet Owner.

Citizens can join any branch of the military starting at 18 years of age. From there, they are placed into various roles, and one of those may be logistics. The armed forces operate many types of heavy machinery. This detailed knowledge will help veteran drivers operate large trucks, and remain calm if anything were to malfunction. Their ability to remain calm and on schedule are also traits that translate well to the industry, Holland Regional hiring manager Jason Schenkel told Fleet Owner.

Schenkel, who spent 23 years with the U.S. Army, told the publication that from as young as 18, veterans learned to make important decisions. In the trucking world, drivers may have to make difficult decisions such as deciding on a route to take or or how to navigate tight city streets. Two other characteristics military veterans have can also translate to the industry. Many veterans are used to the structured nature of trucking. Veterans are also used to spending time away from their family.

In an interview with U.S. News & World Report, truck driver Brett Aquila said the time away from home often deters potential drivers. Not everyone can comfortably cope with spending large amounts of time in a truck by themselves.

"So veterans probably have a better opportunity to adapt to the environment, be successful at it and come onboard a lot faster than most new hires would," Schenkel told Fleet Owner.

Hiring veterans
Numerous organizations exist to help companies hire veterans. Within the next four years, the government estimates 1 million veterans will make the transition to civilian life. These individuals will join 573,000 currently unemployed veterans. The number of organizations formed to help veterans find jobs means hiring organizations often have difficulty differentiating themselves and fighting over the resources that are needed to help veterans make that transition, according to Hire Heroes USA.

"Military veterans have the characteristics to succeed as truck drivers."

Another problem, according to Schenkel, is veterans aren't usually the type to ask for help. Truck companies have to go out and find potential hires and shouldn't wait for veterans to come to them. The U.S. Department of Labor's CareerOneStop recommends two important steps for companies looking to hire veterans. First, these trucking firms should post any driver openings on the state's job bank. Companies should then contact a Veterans Employment Representative from the American Job Center. These representatives can help locate qualified veterans for the opening.

Trucking companies may also receive tax benefits and other waivers for hiring veterans. For instance, they can be eligible for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit's Vow to Hire Heroes provision. Depending where companies are located, some states may waive the skills test portion of the commercial driving license application for recent veterans who have two or more years driving a military truck safely.

The trucking industry remains as vital as ever, yet a driver shortage is cause for concern. Due to the nature of the job and certain regulations, many drivers and new hires are older individuals, who may not have the traits needed to succeed. Military veterans currently transitioning to civilian life have the background to become excellent drivers, and they can help firms weather the shortage. Companies need to take a proactive approach when hiring veterans, however, by posting to job boards and highlighting benefits.