Two films in the late 70s — Convoy and Smokey and the Bandit — highlighted the trucking life and how much of an adventure it could be to get behind one of those big rigs. American children continue to perform the universal arm motion that indicates a request for the booming truck horn when an 18-wheeler passes their school bus on the highway. There's a certain charm to trucking, and it's one of the pillars of our economy.
Now, the path to trucking as a career has become easier for veterans. President Barack Obama has just signed a law that makes it easier for military veterans to keep on truckin'. If you are considering a career in trucking after separation or retirement, then you can take advantage of this new legislation.
The Military Commercial Driver’s License Act of 2012, signed into law on Oct. 19, 2012, allows states to waive a residency requirement for issuing commercial licenses to service members living in the state. This will make it easier for separating service members to get a post-military job in the state of their last duty station if they are not a resident of that state. The federal law applies to active duty and reserve members.
The new law does not guarantee that a state will issue licenses to non-resident service members. It allows states to waive the residency, but it does not require them to do so.
The legislation also allows the Department of Defense to negotiate with states about training military members and issuing them CDLs while they are still on active duty.
“By removing the unnecessary barriers that prevent these hardworking men and women from obtaining a commercial driver’s license, this law allows America to give something back by providing them with a valuable skill to advance their civilian employment opportunities when their military service ends,” said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), one of the sponsors of the legislation.
There are about 200,000 long haul trucking jobs available nationwide, according to David Heller, director of safety and policy for the Truckload Carriers Association. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that the demand for truckers will increase. It expects about 300,000 jobs will be added to the existing 1.5 million between 2010 and 2020.
To fill the existing vacancies, some companies are looking to veterans as part of their hiring strategy.
Conway Truckload, based out of Joplin, Mo., is one such example. They hire military veterans, because the "military does not accept failure," said Gretchen Jackson, Conway Truckload's recruiting manager. There are other attributes that veterans have that Conway finds appealing such as excellent work ethic, pride in attaining goals, experience with diversity, and the ability to work under stressful conditions.
Conway Truckload currently employs about 600 people with military backgrounds. Within the last two years they have hired well over 200 veterans. They will work with the military to help members obtain a civilian CDL and they also offer tuition assistance for training through their apprenticeship program.
Three major trucking companies made the top 25 of the G.I. Jobs' Top 100 Military-Friendly Employers. The companies are J.B. Hunt Transport Services (16th), Schneider National (18th), and Werner Enterprises (25th).
"(These) companies are committed to hiring individuals who possess the values and skills instilled in them during their time of service", said Dan Fazio, G.I. Jobs’ managing editor.
If, like Goose from the film Top Gun, you're interested in becoming a trucker, you can take advantage of your GI Bill benefits to go to truck driving school. You may find that trucking is a viable and rewarding career after your time in the military.