For veterans, heading back into civilian life can be a bit of an adjustment. With an entire military career under their belt, the notion of what’s next can feel overwhelming until they find direction. A career in truck driving capitalizes on the very best that a military mind can offer while providing benefits that support a service member’s long-term future. CDL training—or courses to prepare someone for the commercial driver’s license exam—can be an opportune way to test whether long-haul trucking is the right choice for them and help them move on from this period of transition.
Military Qualities That Translate Well to Truck Driving
The military places punctuality as a central fixture of active duty, which usually stays with veterans long after they retire. For the trucking business, this trait is paramount, as drivers have strict deadlines for shipments. Those with a knack for punctuality will stick to their schedule and plan for traffic that can derail their timeline.
Like being aware of one’s surroundings is critical on military missions, situational awareness is a paramount skill for long-haul trucking. Driving these massive machines means that drivers need to continually monitor their vicinity for other cars, slowing traffic, weather changes, and other hazards that can put themselves and others on the highway in danger.
Like in the trucking industry, it takes a lot of logistics to build success in the military, so veterans tend to have a competitive edge with this component of the job. Truckers learn in CDL training to have a mastery of planning to reach a destination on time using the most cost-effective route. Since conditions are ever-shifting, drivers must also be able to adapt, which makes this logic equally important.
Trucking requires long stretches of solitude on the open road—a task some people can’t handle. The isolation and stresses of the job demand a sense of mental fortitude that many veterans have. Their experience in the field can help them stay focused behind the wheel and manage the long journeys better than most considering a CDL.
While the trucking industry requires a lot of time on the open road, commercial drivers get to their destination with the help of their team of operations managers and dispatchers. Service members experience this juxtaposition of independence and teamwork during their time in active duty, and bringing these skills to the table has a significant impact on a shipment’s workflow.
There is a sense of pride that every man and woman who serves in the military carries with them throughout their lives. Vets often manifest this quality through well-kempt appearance and a professional attitude in whatever role they acquire—like truck driving. Taking pride in a clean truck, a groomed appearance, and a professional manner are what trucking companies look for when hiring. Since their drivers are the face of their company who speak with clients daily, employers often flock to veterans who understand what it means to represent a larger entity with one’s individual actions.
Benefits for Veterans Getting CDL Training
Veterans May Not Have to Take the Road Test
The trucking industry recognizes that some relevant skills learned in the military extend beyond just mindset and professionalism. The CDL test includes both a written exam and a road test, but for veterans who managed heavy military equipment and machinery during their active duty, they might be exempt from the latter. Doing so is called the “Military CDL Skills Test Waiver,” which applies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. To be eligible for it, a veteran must:
- Have at least two years’ experience operating heavy equipment or machinery.
- Have operated this heavy machinery within the last year.
- Have no serious traffic violations.
- Pass the written portion of the CDL exam.
This step not only accelerates the CDL process but also gets vets hired at a trucking company faster. Plus, a service member can complete CDL training at a truck driving school in just a few short months, expediting their future even further. These schools also hold career fairs and provide connections that help their students get a job following graduation.
Financial Assistance for CDL Training
Active duty military and veterans are eligible for several educational benefits through GI Bill® programs. Since 1944, this educational assistance through the Department of Veterans Affairs has assisted millions of service members in paying for college, graduate school, and training courses. The funding from these programs can help pay for CDL training and even pay vets back for test fees up to $2,000 once they take the exam. While there are a few hoops to jump through to become eligible for GI Bill benefits, the V.A. website has a comprehensive guide to help service members get the educational support they need. A few possible programs that apply are:
- The Post-9/11 GI Bill, serving any veteran who served on active duty for at least 90 days after September 10, 2001.
- The Montgomery GI Bill, which is divided into two types, Active Duty and Selected Reserve.
Benefits are distributed monthly, and the amount that veterans receive depends on their length of service and the type of education or training they get, as well as other program-specific qualifications.
The biggest hurdle for veterans once they return home from active duty is settling into a career outside the military. According to the National Center for Homeless Veterans, roughly 1-in-10 homeless adults are veterans, and 1.4 million service members are at risk of homelessness due to poverty or lack of support networks. The trucking industry can not only provide stability financially, but it can also create a community around service members to thrive going forward.
Trucking companies pay their drivers a competitive income and also provide full benefits including:
- Health insurance.
- Vacation time.
- Retirement benefits.
Benefits can be a significant game-changer for veterans, as they can offer support both for today and for their future. Health insurance can help them with physical health as well as mental health, which is often an ongoing battle for service members who are returning from active war zones. Vacation time can create a work-life balance for truckers to focus on their life off the road. Retirement benefits can then set them up for success once they hang up their keys.
The most significant benefit, though, is the trucking industry’s guarantee of job security. Currently, there is a shortage of truck drivers in the U.S.—roughly 51,000 drivers are needed according to the Washington Post—and consumer demand is only projected to require more and more commercial trucks on the road. This need means that once a veteran has a commercial driver’s license and lands a spot at a shipping company, they will keep their job for the foreseeable future as long as the demands of the position are met.
The 9-to-5 life isn’t for everybody, and commercial truck driving is anything but a desk job. A career on the road allows veterans to explore the country and see places they may have never visited. The position also gives them the opportunity to continue serving their country by shipping the goods that everyday Americans need.
The trips involved can be ideal for a service member after years in active duty, as they harken back to the travels during their service without the cons that distance brought during their time in the military. Unlike active duty, for example, truckers can regularly communicate with friends and family—even when they’re far away. They also know that every time they leave home that they won’t be gone for long.
If you’re a veteran that’s ready to take the first step towards a career in commercial truck driving, our courses at the Hamrick School are an excellent place to start. Since 1980, our team of seasoned instructors have helped over 10,000 drivers reach their career goals in the long-haul trucking industry. For more information about our accredited program based in Medina, OH, visit our website or give us a call today at (330) 239-2229.
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