Making sure that veterans are employed is an issue in the U.S as the unemployment rate for veterans since 2001 has been 5.8% which is a full percentage rate higher than the national average.
In light of Veterans Day, Omnitracs, a technology serving the trucking industry, interviewed several leaders in the trucking and transportation industry about the important role of veterans, what makes them well suited for the industry and why a career in trucking and transportation is appealing to veterans.
According to the data analysis, on average:
- Veterans had 42% fewer accidents than non-veteran drivers
- Veterans achieved 98% more miles driven
- Veterans had 59% fewer voluntary terminations and 68% fewer involuntary terminations
“I spent 10 years in the Navy on ships, operating around the world,” explains> John Graham, Navy veteran and CEO of Omnitracs. “I worked in organizations where I was concerned with logistics, and logistics management. From my standpoint, it was a great training ground for me on a lot of the skills that I learned for transportation, for the industry, but also for technology. I've actually been in technology for about 25 years, since I left the Navy, and a lot of the lessons and a lot of the skills I received in the Navy are fundamental to what I do in leading Omnitracs. I think that there is an obligation for veterans like myself that have had great experience from the military that has helped them to be successful in life to reach back into that veteran community and help them bridge that gap.”
These skills are in dire need in the trucking industry which is experiencing serious challenges with driver shortages as well as turnover rates which are at an all-time high. In 2015, industry-wide driver turnover reached 95%.
Lance Collette, CEO of Eagle Transport, sees a natural match between this group and the industry. “You always think about the equipment, tanks, trucks, all the other things these guys are exposed to and trained on,” explains Collette. "To me, that's the appeal of our industry. They're not cooped up in a plant. They're not in an office where that might not fit their skill set. They're out on the road. They're back outside but they're also dealing with very technical eighty-thousand-pound advanced equipment. They are the captain of the ship when they're in the driver’s seat. To me, it really matches some of the skills that they've learned in the military and some of the things that might have appealed to them about the military."
As Collette notes, his drivers are handling "a quarter million-dollar piece of equipment, whether they are transporting petroleum or chemicals. There is an extreme amount of volatility to the product. We have a tremendous amount of safety rules that surrounds the handling of products, loading a product, and transport. There’s a skill set that drivers that come out of the military bring: the discipline, the understanding of policies and procedures and the following all those procedures. It really makes the training process and their overall employment a whole lot more successful.”
Military service makes veterans uniquely suited to a career in truck driving for several reasons:
- Veterans and their families are accustomed to long stints away from home
- Veterans are trained to follow orders with precision and reliability
- Most vets are fast learners who adapt well to change
- Veterans have experience working in stressful environments
- The military grooms service members for roles in leadership and mentorship
- Past deployment prepares vets to make decisions and work autonomously without close supervision
"Veterans also have all the soft skills and intangibles that the military service member brings to the table," says Rick Buckholtz, associate director of field and government recruiting with truckload carrier Werner Enterprises. "They're flexible, they're loyal, they're teachable, their coachable, they can take orders, they can give orders, they can make decisions. They show up on time, they have attention to detail. All those little things that have just become part of their DNA as a service member translate well into the trucking industry.”
To help match veterans with jobs in trucking the American Trucking Association is working with the U.S. government. Some of their efforts include:
- In 2014, American Trucking Associations pledged that its members will hire 100,000 military veterans over the next two years as part of the program.
- The government is simplifying the transition to the transportation industry for veterans. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration expanded its waiver program that gives states the authority to waive the skills portion of the CDL application for active-duty and recently discharged members of the U.S. armed services if those individuals have experience driving comparable military vehicles.>
- The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently awarded $1 million in grants to technical and community colleges to help train returning military veterans for jobs as commercial truck drivers