Few if any industries out there do as much when it comes to hiring and supporting military veterans as trucking does, the top exec of a veteran-specific hiring TV show tells Fleet Owner. But there's more to it than that, and the military itself and the federal government are acknowledging what's going on across the trucking industry.
"We see a lot of different industries, and I'm trying to think of any other than trucking and transportation where there's this industry-wide effort," says Bill Deutch, executive producer of Hiring America. The weekly show — which has chosen to include a trucking/transportation segment in every episode in addition to other career opportunities it covers — airs on 195 stations nationally as well as the American Forces Network, which reaches Dept. of Defense communities globally.
"As we worked with more trucking companies, you could really see that it's an industry-wide initiative in that there's a great need for drivers as well as support personnel and others," he adds.
In trucking and transportation, "carriers obviously are still competitors, but there's such a community there and interest in supporting veterans," Deutch says. "These companies are delivering results in hiring, and there's a long history of veterans in trucking and transportation." He notes that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has recognized "multiple trucking companies" for their efforts and jobs in trucking as one of the fastest-growing opportunities for veterans in its Hiring Our Heroes program.
According to a study RAND Corp. released in October of the private, multi-industry 100,000 Jobs Mission that sought to hire that many veterans by 2020 — and already has exceeded that goal — 53% of servicemen and women who leave the military face a period of unemployment. It can be difficult for veterans to "bridge the gap" and translate their skill sets from military to civilian jobs, and some veterans report feeling misunderstood or underappreciated in civilian settings.
But in trucking and transportation, Deutch says, leaders and managers also often are veterans, and it creates more of a veteran-friendly culture. "You often see it in the corporate infrastructure," he notes. "There are recruiters and executives at these companies who are veterans, and they not only see the value in hiring veterans but create environments that are supportive of that.
"These trucking companies 'get' veterans, and they see hiring them as not only a good business decision, they see it as the right thing to do," he adds.
The military has taken notice of the trucking-veterans connection, especially as the various branches of armed forces have sought to ramp up their focus on veterans' continued employment and successful transition to civilian jobs.
For instance, trucking-specific hiring tech company FASTPORT, which partnered with Hiring America in producing show's weekly trucking segments, has now signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Army Reserve "to explore, promote and improve military hiring initiatives in the trucking industry." Present to sign that memorandum were FASTPORT CEO Bill McLennan, a former Army Reservist himself, and Army Reserve Chief Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Talley.
Deutch points to interactions like that taking place between military leaders and the trucking industry. "You're seeing the industry reaching out and getting the attention of senior military leaders, and it's helping build that bridge between the trucking industry and opportunities for veterans," he says.
And trucking's relationship with veterans has been woven into legislation as well. The recently enacted Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, as an example, includes provisions to make it easier for military veterans to get a commercial driver's license if they've driven trucks during their military service, and that's supported by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
"We're going to continue working to make the transition from military into civilian life as a commercial truck driver easier," says Bill Quade, FMCSA's associate administrator for enforcement. "We're working with the Dept. of Defense so their training and testing programs are good enough for a civilian [CDL] license, so when you get out you can turn in one and get another without having to retest or pay fees."
While all 50 states have adopted FMCSA's waiver program on the CDL skills test for such veterans, "there are still some things we can do to make it easier on them; they're good people with a great work ethic who've had top-notch training and experience," Quade says. "They're the type of people we'd like to put on the road."
The FAST Act specifies that no later than the end of 2016, regulations will be modified to allow military servicemen and women, within a year of separating from the armed forces, to apply for an exemption "from all or a portion of a [CDL] driving test if the covered individual had experience in the armed forces or reserve components driving vehicles similar to a commercial motor vehicle."
Meanwhile, final regulations implementing a waiver for CDL residency requirements for recently separated veterans are to be issued by the end of this year.
Understanding veterans — and trucking
Deutch tells Fleet Owner that just as some industries or employers lack an understanding of military veterans, there's also some misunderstanding of trucking that needs to be overcome. "When you first look at trucking and transportation, I think there's a lot of misperceptions and people don't understand how important it is in moving things across the country, how vital it is to everything we do.
"Everyone just thinks, I go online and I order something, or a building is built and it just magically gets there," he continues. "The trucking industry gets merchandise and materials around the country very efficiently, and it's everything. If you think about it, there's not one thing anyone in this country does that's not influenced by the transportation industry."
He notes that that's a kind of service and function veterans can identify with, almost as a way of continuing the service they've already done. "When you look at the big picture — and people don't always see this — trucking is such a valuable, vital service to our country," Deutch contends. "It could be delivering goods of all kinds, but it could also be disaster relief and a wide variety of things, and it helps people all around the country. The country couldn't exist without it."
As many trucking companies have related, the RAND study identifies some traits that make veterans a valuable addition to businesses, including that:
• Veterans have experience working in and leading teams.
• Veterans are flexible and able to work in a stressful, fast-paced, dynamic environment.
• Veterans are dependable, demonstrate a strong work ethic and have the tenacity to consistently complete work.
• Veterans display integrity and loyalty.
• Veterans are experienced with culturally diverse and global working environments.