Every year, nearly 200,000 men and women transition from military service, looking to put the skills acquired during their time of service to work in a new civilian profession.
This provides an opportunity for the bus and motorcoach industry to recruit full- and part-time workers from this constantly replenished pool of the workforce. Veterans have state-of-the-art training, skills, experience, responsibility and discipline.
In the industry’s favor is its longtime working relationship with the Department of Defense and military branches, says Mike McDonal, director of regulatory compliance at Saucon Technologies and a member of the Driving Force task force.
Recruiting military veterans
“Many of us have worked with DOD moves and been part of DOD programs for quite some time,” said McDonal, who highlighted the potential of recruiting veterans during a Driving Force presentation at a recent United Motorcoach Association Town Hall.
The industry plays a key part in military movements, national disaster responses, and other national, state and local government transport needs. In the past few years, the DOD has put together a pretty significant career development effort to assist transitioning reservists, guardsmen and veterans.
“It’s a great time right now to increase our targeting efforts with several military segments for driver recruiting,” said McDonal. “We want to look at reservists and National Guard, as well as transitioning military and veterans, to take a look at those folks as they’re looking for their next career path.”
In an effort to support America’s Armed Forces, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has launched several programs to make it easier, quicker, and more affordable for experienced military drivers to obtain commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs).
The Military Skills Test Waiver Program allows drivers with two years’ experience safely operating heavy military vehicles to obtain a CDL without taking the driving test (skills test). The program, available in every state, has been used by more than 40,000 service members and veterans.
FMCSA’s Even Exchange Program allows qualified military drivers to be exempt from the knowledge test for obtaining a CDL. When used with the Military Skills Test Waiver, this allows a driver to exchange a military license for a CDL. Positions that qualify for this include:
- U.S. Army: 88M, Motor Transport Operator; 92F, Fueler; 14T, Patriot Launching Station Operator.
- U.S. Marine Corps: 3531, Motor Vehicle Operator.
- U.S. Navy: EO, Equipment Operator.
- U.S. Air Force: 2T1, Vehicle Operator, 2F0, Fueler, 3E2, Pavement and Construction Equipment Operator.
Career has appeal
There are many attributes of a driver career that appeal to transitioning service members, veterans, reservists and Guard members, says Jodi Fickett Merritt, of the third-generation family-owned H&L Charter Co.
When drivers are asked to rate why they like their job, among the most popular answers are flexibility, independence, meeting new people, the view from a mobile office and a new adventure daily.
“I believe that pairing (our industry) with the military all over the US would be very advantageous for us for the long term simply because of the way the licensing is so much easier,” Merritt said.
In May, H&L took advantage of its proximity to Camp Pendleton, the largest armed forces training base in California. With the help of Driving Force, she gave a virtual presentation to a group at the base about a career in the motorcoach industry.
Mike Van Horn, senior vice president at the San Diego transportation tech company Betterez, helped Merritt put together the presentation. He brings a valuable perspective to the project after serving in the U.S. Marines for 12 years.
“We think it’s an opportune time for our industry to tap into all the new programs out there,” said Betterez during a Driving Force presentation at the July 1 UMA Town Hall. “One of our goals for the Driving Force in this military recruiting track is actually providing some strategies, tools and templates to help (operators).”
While Merritt has yet to hear back from presentation attendees, she sees the response as a sign that more outreach is needed to raise awareness among the military and veterans about the motorcoach industry’s employment opportunities.
“They tell you about any kind of marketing thing that somebody has to see something seven times for them to even recognize seeing it once,” Merrit said. “It’s something that we can’t give up on.”
McDonal recommends operators consider outreach to the military regardless if they are near a base.
“When these folks are exiting the military, some of them want to stay in the area that they have been stationed in because they like it or they may want to head back to where home is before they join the military,” McDonal said. “Just because you may not have a base specifically in your geographic area, see if there are any of those folks coming home to you, as well.”
The Driving Force toolkit includes strategies, tools and templates for owner-operators to increase military recruiting.
Other resources include:
- FMCSA Military Driver Programs Brochure. This brief brochure summarizes FMCSA’s programs.
- Military Job Assistance Resources and Programs. A list of government and nonprofit-sponsored programs and services designed to help Armed Services personnel and veterans learn about career resources and opportunities.
- State Resources & Programs. This page provides links for state commercial driver’s license issuing organizations and state job programs and resources for veterans.