RALEIGH — A program launched by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration aims to help military service members and reservists find jobs in the interstate trucking industry.
“Our country has a shortage of truck drivers. This resource will help military service members translate their training into good-paying jobs safely operating commercial vehicles across the country,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao in a press release.
Launched in June, the Under 21 Military Driver Pilot Program seeks to connect 18-20-year-olds that have a U.S. military equivalent of a commercial driver’s license with jobs at participating trucking companies.
The program comes amid a continued decline in number of truckers nationwide. The National Trucking Association’s 2019 annual report found the industry was short 51,000 drivers in 2017. That shortage rose to 61,000 drivers in 2018 and if it continues, the number could reach 100,000 by 2023 and 160,000 by 2028.
“Over the past 15 years, we’ve watched the shortage rise and fall with economic trends, but it ballooned last year to the highest level we’ve seen to date,” the American Trucking Association’s chief economist Bob Costello said in July. “The combination of a surging freight economy and carriers’ need for qualified drivers could severely disrupt the supply chain.”
To qualify, applicants need to have heavy-vehicle driver training and experience while in military service, carry a designated MOS or job rating approved for the pilot, and be hired by a participating motor carrier.
Over the course of the next three years, the FMCSA’s pilot program will attempt to determine potential benefits of 18-20-year-old drivers to operate commercial vehicles. The pilot will collect and compare the safety records of the Under 21 Military Drivers with that of a control group to look at the impact of age on commercial driver safety.
The Under 21 Military Driver Pilot Program’s website maintains a list of job opportunities with trucking employers nationwide. Active service members, reservists, National Guard, and military veterans who possess the CDL equivalent can use the site to learn more about job opportunities that are available with participating motor carriers.
North Carolina has the third largest military population in the country. The Old North State is home to six military bases with almost 113,000 active duty service members and a reservist and national guard population of roughly 21,000.
Companies participating in the Under 21 pilot include GoLub, Gully Transportation, Lily Transportation, May Trucking, PI&I Motor Express, Prime Inc., UPS Freight, Total Transportation of Mississippi and Werner Enterprises.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, tractor trailer drivers in May of 2018 earned between $21.00 to $23.00 per hour. In 2018, the BLS listed North Carolina as employing over 58,000 heavy and tractor trailer drivers at an average annual mean wage of $44,030.
The U.S. Dept. of Transportation also offers a wide range of other transportation job opportunities for veterans based on their military skills and experience in areas such as air traffic control, commercial piloting and railroad operations.