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Hiring veterans as truck drivers to fill the trucker shortage – the good and the bad of this new initiative

March 15, 2013 by Steven M. Gursten

The FMSCA has authorized the states to waive CDL requirements for veterans returning to civilian workforce as truckers

Hiring veterans as truck drivers

I’ve written before about the national truck driver shortage. It’s part of a larger epidemic that I see as a truck accident lawyer, where companies who are in need of drivers lower standards or look the other way. They look to drivers who have caused too many crashes, violated too many traffic safety laws, are medically unqualified to drive, or who are under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Well I’m happy to report that now there’s a new initiative that might help on both fronts: truck companies are recruiting veterans who are returning to the civilian work force to be truck drivers.

This initiative will help with the shortage of qualified drivers and help take care of our courageous veterans still looking for employment.

This makes sense, as a veteran who operated large military vehicles (even 18 wheelers) in harsh climates is likely also qualified to operate trucks on our roads back home. And veterans have been shown to be good hires, as they are disciplined and have a good work ethic.

Now the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) is making it easier for veterans to get a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

At each state’s discretion, veterans only have to pass the written portion of the CDL test to get licensed. They get to bypass the skills driving test.

Here’s the Military CDL Skills Test Waiver Forms from the FMSCA.

This measure has been adopted by 44 states, including Michigan. The latest state to do so was Maryland.

Currently, in order to qualify, the applicant must:

  1. Have two years of driving experience immediately before their discharge from military service;
  2. Have a clean driving record (including being free of license suspensions);
  3. Not have held more than one license (except a military DL) in the past two years;
  4. Have certification of the vehicle they operated;
  5. Have certification of the amount of time they operated that vehicle; and
  6. Pass the written portion of the CDL test.

This all sounds good. We want to take care of our veterans, and make the transition back to civilian life as easy as possible for them. But there’s a rub when it comes to this initiative and safety.

It’s never a good idea to make it easier to get a CDL. The responsibility of driving a commercial truck is immense. It requires extensive training, practice and a clean bill of health (it doesn’t always happen that way, but that’s the way it should go). And driving a big commercial truck is much different and more difficult than operating a car, and poses much larger safety hazards for all of us and our families on the public roads.

So a compromise is needed, one that meets the needs of those who have served our country, and still protects our own families on our roads from unqualified or dangerous drivers.

This has the potential to become a really great initiative, if safety always comes first. Why?  It attracts qualified applicants to a profession where excellent drivers are absolutely critical.

Commercial vehicles are extremely dangerous when safety standards are not followed.  This waiver for veterans will attract experienced people who likely are familiar with the ropes. This way is still preferable to hiring truckers who have a record of grass-hopping from state to state, receiving safety violations and causing truck crashes before hoping on to the next state.

“Grass-hopping” remains the most imminent danger regarding the trucker shortage we’re facing. Many motor carriers will lower their standards and fill positions with unfit and unhealthy truckers who have a history of accidents, and who have no business getting behind the wheel.

Like I said before, giving back to the courageous men and women who have given so much to this country is extremely important. Hopefully, once these veterans are placed in their new truck driving jobs, they will still need to receive additional safety training from the companies that hire them.

So if the motor carriers just do what they are required to already under the federal rules with training and supervision, this should be a win-win for us all.

Related information:

Help for truck drivers after an accident


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