Transportation: Moving Soldiers From Transition to Careers

12/03/2012  |  By Al Hanley, III

According to the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), each year 80,000 to 100,000 skilled soldiers will transition to civilian life. Other reports estimate one million military personnel will transition over the next four years, making the job market all the more competitive. In fact, today’s sluggish economy can make a job -- any job -- seem more important than a career path. Despite the slow recovery, there are industries that value the acquired skills of professional soldiers and offer them genuine opportunities.

Ground Transportation, a market segment with annual revenues of more than $300 Billion, is one of those industries. Regardless of a candidate’s military occupational specialty (MOS), transportation employers value the training, work ethic and discipline developed through military service. Troops returning to civilian life can choose a commercial vehicle license and appropriate endorsements for more than jobs; they can create careers.

Why is transportation an excellent industry for transitioning troops?

As an industry, transportation is growing. Nearly every commodity in this country is hauled either locally, regionally or over-the-road. Whether trucked from ports to distribution centers or from plants to shelves, transportation literally drives our economy. Recent reports estimate a need for 400,000 commercial drivers in the coming years as demand grows and older drivers retire.

Transportation offers real rewards. Depending upon the school, troops can be licensed and certified commercial drivers in a few weeks or up to six months. As first year solo drivers, they can expect to earn $35,000 to $45,000 annually with good benefits, including paid vacations and holidays, medical and life insurance, and retirement plans. First year team drivers can earn more than $50,000 per year along with those other benefits. No relocation is necessary.

Transportation presents choices. Depending on their needs and preferences, soldiers who transition to transportation can choose local, regional, or over the road routes. Other transportation career options include owner operator, driver trainer or positions inside the corporate terminal, including supervising or working in: logistics, recruitment, administration, and security divisions.

The transportation industry offers entrepreneurial opportunities. Troops in transportation are in the proverbial driver’s seat of their own futures. Some 70 percent of trucking companies operate six trucks or less. Many of the trucking companies now on the Top 100 list began as a small one- or two- truck operation. Transportation offers a steady career – and more. It offers the means to own and grow a business.

How does a soldier transition into transportation?

Determine the license and endorsement requirements in your state and what best suits you. Since the enactment of the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986, federal law sets the minimum licensing standards. States implement and regulate licensing. Commercial licenses are divided into three classes, A, B and C. Work with a knowledgeable career or school counselor to match the right license to your goals.

Select the commercial driving school that meets your needs. There’s more to it than convenient schedules. When choosing a commercial driving school consider these factors:

Claims and qualifications: pay attention to enrollment and graduation rates; instructor(s) experience and certification; and relationship with military personnel.

Years of service: it’s about the school’s heritage. How long have they offered commercial driver’s license training? Avoid schools that have arisen around changes in the GI bill or that do not have a license or established reputation.

Recognition: look for licenses, approvals, certifications or accreditation from government agencies (Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense, Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Education) and professional associations (Better Business Bureau, trucking associations, etc.).

References and guidance: talk to your ACAP counselors or Base transition team. Choose a school that makes personal advisors or counselors available to you and caters to your goals. Ask about success stories; talk to graduates or read about them online.

Comprehensiveness: while CDL training prepares students for licensing requirements, an effective job training program readies them for success. Of course, you want to choose a commercial driving program that prepares you to meet the federal minimum standards and the requirements for your state. It’s also important to choose a program that goes above and beyond. Look for a school offering courses that will support your success. For example, instruction in maintaining logbooks can help you meet employer requirements and assist you in working most efficiently to earn the most you can.

Established timeframe: the program you choose should make start and completion dates clear – and they should stick to them. Too often students enroll only to discover they cannot complete required courses because class size is limited or schedules are restricted.

Financial obligations: if you qualify for the GI Bill, look for programs that will help you apply for your eligibility so you get it right the first time. If not, ask about other available assistance. Look out for training programs offered by hauling companies. If they offer ‘free training’ but require two years of service upon completion, what happens if you want to take a position with another company?

Placement assistance: determine what, if any, career assistance they offer. You should be pre-hired before you begin training. Look for established relationships with several employers, not a feeding farm for one or two operations. When you graduate you should be in a position to choose from multiple offers.

Choose Transportation

Across the country, the industry is hungry for qualified drivers with the skills professional soldiers acquire in the service of our country. A career in transportation can be a few short weeks away. Competitive salaries, paid benefits and no relocation are just a few of the short-term benefits. Once in the driver seat, you can take career as far as you’d like. Get licensed, get driving!

Al Hanley, III is a principal of The CDL School with classes in New York and Florida. In honor of its 50th anniversary, The CDL School is expanding its recruitment of troops in transition, launching a “Troops into Transportation” campaign. If you have any questions about a career in transportation or choosing the right training program in your area, please contact Al at 754-444-2354 (voice/sms) or by e-mail at [email protected].
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