Veterans in Trucking - a Career After Your Service

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Transistioning from active duty to civilian life can be challenging for many service memebers. Trucking can be a good opportunity for veterans to find a stable career and make a good living after their time in the military is over.

Forbes listed trucking as one of the top 10 best jobs for veterans, and for good reason! Learn more about the advantages for veterans in CDL training. 

Looking to Veterans to Reduce the Trucker Shortage

"I think there's no higher calling for an American than to serve in our armed forces, and driving a truck, delivering America's most essential goods safely, is also a high calling." Bill Graves, ATA president and CEO

Some veterans often find it difficult to obtain employment post-active duty, especially in a secure position with steady income. However, trucking is a great career that veterans can enter into quickly.

Commonly, service members have already been trained to drive heavy vehicles. If not, your active duty experience qualifies you for quick training. Especially for veterans, receiving training as a truck driver is quite a good fit for many vets and helps you make a transition into a new career.

Some carriers have programs designed to train and employ veterans specifically. J.B. Hunt and its "Hunt's Heroes" program are one of them. In just 8 weeks veterans can begin an exciting new career as a truck driver.

However, you don't need to be a driver to work in the trucking industry. Administrative and mechanical positions are abundant and there is high demand. Whether you want to work at a desk, underneath a truck, or inside the cabin, the industry has a spot for you.

Veterans Make Excellent Truck Drivers

"There's a lot of similarities between what [servicemen and women] do in the military and what the trucking industry does, and that's regardless of what their military occupation or specialty is." Bill McLennan, FASTPORT CEO

There are many reasons the trucking industry, as a whole, is looking for veterans. Becasue many veterans are highly skilled at driving and operating heavy trucks and machinery, they are sutied to becoming truck drivers. In addition, you have created and honed a knowledge and skill base that make a quality trucker. 

  • Team player: In the military, teamwork is at the core of every mission.

  • You are used to a more mobile lifestyle: In the military, you are always on the move. Similarly, OTR drivers are likely to be away from home for a few weeks at most before returning home. Some trucking jobs may have more regular home time than that, depending on your position.

    • You also have more access to the internet and a phone, so you can skype or call loved ones whenever safety standards permit, as opposed to set, pre-established times.

  • Strong work ethic: Most military veterans know how important their job is, how hard they've worked, and they treat it with the respect it deserves. You take responsibility for your actions and hold yourself accountable. All are qualities trucking companies value in a driver.

  • Mental stamina: Veterans are used to being under pressure and working long hours. Your ability to stay focused at all times, even when exhausted, is a perfect quality for the trucking industry. The extreme discipline a military career provides can serve you well during long treks. 

  • Excellent leadership skills: Veterans have learned to take charge of situations and ownership of their actions. Both qualities are well-valued in the trucking industry. If you possess accountability and decisiveness, you may be considered qualified for more responsibility later in your career. If you find that you are a good teacher, you may also advance from truck driver to driving instructor. 

  • Alert and aware: Being alert and aware of your surroundings is something military personnel are trained to do. Knowing what is going on with and around your truck will come naturally to you, and is necessary for when you are on the job.

Five Things Veterans Need to Look For in a Carrier

As a veteran, there are a few things you should pay attention to when looking for a carrier company to work with. When in doubt, talk to other drivers who have been with the carrier for a while.

  1. What is the company's reputation? Does it treat its drivers well, avoid dishonest operating procedures, and respect its clients? As a veteran, you deserve a company whose reputation is on par with its integrity.

  2. Fair treatment with fair pay. Not all trucking companies provide both. Some pay well but treat their drivers poorly, and vice versa. Find one that fairly provides both pay and treatment - fortunately, there are many carriers that do so

  3. How is the equipment? The company may guarantee great pay-per-mile, more home time, and steady work. Be sure to consider the equipment along with these benefits. Find a carrier who has a great track record across the board.

  4. Are there opportunities for career advancement? Not only do you need to find out if carriers pay well and respect their drivers, but you also have a right to know what the career ladder is like. What type of future opportunities are possible? When is one eligible for a raise? Which driving options are good for you?

  5. Does the carrier company participate in the various government programs that are available to U.S. veterans? The best companies for you to work with are those who already have training programs that cater to veterans’ needs. The GI Bill and the VA Apprenticeship Program are just a couple that were put into place to make it easier for veterans to re-enter civilian life.

About the GI and Military Veteran Government Programs

To be eligible for any type of government program, there are a few criteria that must be met. These programs were created for U.S. veterans in hopes of making it easier to re-enter the workforce through a variety of means. There are many trucking companies that participate in these programs. Any program must be approved by the state of residence’s agencies. Always check with your state to make sure the company you’re considering is one of the carriers approved.

  • Military Skills Waiver Program: To facilitate a seamless transition from military to positions in transportation, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration created the Military Skills Test Waiver Program. Military men and women who drove heavy duty vehicles are not required to take the road test portion of their state’s CDL licensing exam. To be eligible for the Military Skills Test Waiver Program, you must be active duty or have received an honorable discharge. You must have at least 2 years' experience operating any type of commercial vehicle as part of your military position. You must apply for the waiver program within a year of separation from active duty.

  • Military CDL Act of 2012: Generally, the CDL license is given by the state of residence. However, because many military personnel move frequently, the Military CDL Act of 2012 gives special permissions allowing people in the Armed Forces to operate commercial motorized vehicles (CMV) in other states where they are either permanently or temporarily residing.

  • Post-9/11 GI Bill: The post 9/11 GI Bill is for those who served in active duty after September 10, 2001, whether they were actively or honorably discharged, or discharged with a disability. This bill provides for higher education or training programs, and will pay for the education on behalf of the recipient. It also allows for a housing allowance, if needed. The Post-9/11 GI Bill can be used toward college, university, job training, or trade school.

  • Montgomery GI Bill: The Montgomery GI Bill offers two programs for those enlisted in the U.S. Armed Forces.

    • Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty, or Chapter 30, allows for benefits to active duty members who have enrolled and paid the monthly fee of $100 for 12 months. They are then entitled to receive a monthly education benefit after a required minimum of service. This bill may be used for furthering education on a college, university, trade school, or job-training level. The benefits are usually available for 10 years post-release with an honorable discharge.

    • Montgomery GI Selected Reserve is for those who served in the Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Coast Guard Reserve, Army National Guard, and Air National Guard. Eligibility is determined by the Selected Reserves in whichever form the recipient served, and the VA makes the payments. 36 Months of education may be available to those who qualify.

  • Veterans Administration Apprenticeship Program and On-the-Job Training (OJT): This program was created to help veterans and their dependents learn new skills or trades. This must be done through an approved company or union. The recipients of this program will still be eligible to receive benefits. There are a few different programs and rules with the Veteran’s Administration Apprenticeship Program and OJT (on-the-job training). To qualify for any of the programs, you must be supervised for 50% of the time, the training must lead to an entry-level position, you must be a paid employee working full time, all training must be documented, you must never have had any training in the field you’re entering, you must be a recent hire with a minimum of six months of training, and the employee may be private, local, or state government.

    • OJT when using the Post 9/11 Bill: For the first 6 months of training, you will receive 100% of your housing stipend, 80% for the following 6 months, 60% for the third 6 month set, 40% for the fourth sixth set of 6 months, and 20% for the remainder of your training.

    • OJT using the Active Duty GI Bill: For the first 6 months of training, you will receive a certain amount of pay per month, with the amount decreasing slightly throughout the remainder of your training as full-time employment gets closer. 

    • OJT using the Reserve GI Bill: For the first 6 months of training, you will receive a certain amount (usually less than the Active Duty GI Bill) of pay per month, that decreases slightly throughout the remainder of your training as full time employment gets closer. 

To receive any of the above benefits, there are forms you must fill out. There is the VA Form 22-1990, which is applicable if you’ve never used the veteran benefits before, and the VA Form 22-5490, which is for eligible dependents. If you’ve used the veteran benefits before, the form you’d need to fill out is the VA Form 22-1995, and for your eligible dependents, the VA Form 22-5495. It’s quickest to fill these out and submit them online. All the forms can be found here.

Read the Guide To The GI Bill: What It's Used For & How To Apply


There is a wide array of resources for veterans who are interested in a career in trucking. Beyond scholarships and other financial aid opportunities, there are programs available to ease your transition and find a permanent career in the industry. 

  • Hiring America is a TV series with the goal of connecting veterans with compatible jobs, as well as helping them assimilate into a civilian career.

  • Hiring Our Heroes and the Hiring Our Heroes Fellowship Program are programs created by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation to help transition our country’s heroes by helping them and their families find employment.

  • FASTPORT, selected by the Hiring Our Heroes program for its Veteran Employment Advisory Council (VEAC), was created to help “educate, hire, and inspire transitioning military service members on the career opportunities in the trucking industry.” True to its word, the group has gotten well over 150,000 commitments from trucking carriers.

  • Part of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, veterans are eased into their transition into truck driving through this program. 

  • Trucking Track is a mentoring program that will help veterans and their families find careers in the trucking industry.

Find a local CDL School

Trucking isn't the only option for veterans. Find out more about trade school programs and STEM careers.

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