A Veteran’s Guide to Becoming a Truck Driver
Pivoting from a military career to a civilian lifestyle can be challenging, especially when it comes to choosing a job and entering the workforce. Thankfully, the U.S. government and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have programs in place to help veterans transition into a career in truck driving.
If you’re drawn to the independence and financial stability of life on the road, you should definitely take advantage of these veteran programs and consider a transportation career. Find out what resources are available to you (both inside and outside of these government programs), why a trucking career can be a beneficial move, and how to get started today.
Resources for Veterans Interested in Truck Driving
In 2021, the White House announced the Trucking Action Plan to Strengthen America’s Trucking Workforce. This plan has provided veterans with a wealth of federal resources to kickstart a career in trucking.
If you’re ready to start learning the ins and outs of truck driving, VA resources can help pay for your education, waive certain testing, and connect you with employers and professionals in the field of transportation.
GI Bill benefits
Since 1944, the GI Bill has served as a financial benefit to help veterans pay for schooling, training, housing, and even textbooks. Rather than paying for college tuition, veterans can use their GI Bill benefits to pay for driver schooling programs. GI Bill benefits will also reimburse you for any fees associated with truck driver licensing and certification.
The Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) Operator Training Grant can also be used to pay for a trucking education program. This grant applies to United States Armed Forces members—including the National Guard reserves—and their spouses.
The United States Department of Labor (DOL) offers transportation apprenticeship programs for veterans that provide paid work and training opportunities simultaneously. Trucking companies can work with the DOL to hire veteran apprentices directly.
Housing and school supplies
With a VA-approved apprenticeship program, GI Bill-qualifying veterans can also receive a tax-free monthly housing allowance as well as an additional stipend for books and other supplies.
Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program
This apprenticeship program is designed to help those aged 18-20 train for an interstate CDL by allowing them to transport interstate commerce under specific conditions. Under this program, carriers can hire young drivers and give them invaluable work experience while training them in trucking best practices.
Military Skills Test Waiver Program
If you have experience operating large military vehicles, you may be able to waive the commercial driver’s license skills test. The FMCSA offers a waiver that allows veterans to forgo driving tests, as long as they have the appropriate operational experience.
This waiver only applies to service members who are currently licensed to operate military motor vehicles and have done so within the last 12 months, and this waiver is currently available in all states.
Even Exchange Program (knowledge test waiver)
Along with the driving test, veterans can also opt to forgo the knowledge test required for a commercial driver’s license if they have experience operating military equipment.
The occupational classifications required for this waiver vary depending on your branch of service, and this waiver is only active in participating states.
Other resources to aid the transition
Aside from financial aid and CDL waivers, veterans can also benefit from other federal programs while pivoting into a trucking career.
Transition Assistance Program (TAP)
This program provides educational instruction and guidance on post-military career paths, including trucking. TAP offers workshops on employment fundamentals, as well as dozens of other helpful resources:
- Job fairs
- Job search help for military spouses
- Resume help
- Temp jobs
The Department of Defense (DOD) also offers programs that help military personnel and their families transition into civilian life. SkillBridge is designed to enable service members to begin occupational training during their last six months of service so that they feel even more prepared to enter the workforce by their release date.
Veteran-Focused Trucking Schools
There are several trucking schools that specialize in helping veterans transition from active service to the civilian workforce. These schools can be extra beneficial because they often have a veteran-specific program or teach with your experience in mind.
Truck Driver Institute
The Truck Driver Institute offers a three-week course, job placement opportunities, and works with GI Bill benefits.
United Truck Driving School
This California-based school offers training for Class A and Class B commercial driver’s licenses and accepts most VA benefits for tuition assistance.
SAGE Truck Driving School
SAGE is a veteran-owned school that prioritizes veteran placement and helps students navigate skills tests and knowledge waivers.
Troops Into Transportation
This program within The CDL School works directly with SkillBridge to educate and place veterans into the workforce. They work to cover all costs aside from meals to help eliminate any additional financial burden.
You can also search for trucking schools in your hometown that accept VA benefits or speak with a veteran career counselor to find a school that will be the best fit for you.
Mentors and Networking Groups for Veterans in Trucking
Along with government programs, there are several professional organizations that exist to help veterans and their families transition into a civilian workplace.
There are several organizations like GallantFew, American Corporate Partners, and Peer Advisors For Veteran Education (PAVE) that link transitioning veterans with one-on-one veteran mentors who can help with career questions, educational resources, and provide emotional and social support.
For those who want to network with potential employers and other professionals in the field, organizations like Veterans in Trucking can be very helpful. By communicating with experienced professionals, often with a similar background, you can learn more about what to expect from the transition into truck driving.
Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and even TikTok can also be great resources for connecting and networking with other veteran truck drivers. Search for groups, hashtags, and accounts that resonate with you, and try messaging individuals about their experience.
Use Your Experience to Excel in Trucking
With so many helpful resources and programs available, transitioning from military service to truck driving can be a very straightforward and rewarding career path.
Often, veterans can pay for training with GI Bill benefits, waive CDL driving and knowledge tests, and connect with veteran mentors to help them throughout the entire process.
Veterans can gain purpose and independence with a career in truck driving, and earn financial stability for themselves and their families.
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