Out of all goods in the United States, 71% of them are delivered by truck, a whopping majority. What’s more is that number is set to increase in years to come. The already understaffed market is set to take on 1.1 million drivers in the next decade. That accounts for 110,000 licensed CDL drivers per year.
Don’t believe us? Consider the volatile delivery market. Stores are under-stocked. Online orders take days’ longer to arrive, on average. Some of that is a supply shortage, of course. But it’s also because there aren’t enough drivers to take items where they need to go. There simply isn’t enough staff on hand to make necessary deliveries. And the market is only slated to get grow in its demand.
That’s why trucking companies are recruiting heavily … and paying top-dollar at that. Military veterans are actively being offered six-figure contracts to help keep America’s shelves stocked and keep trucks moving.
Veterans in the Trucking Industry
Currently, there are just over 18 million veterans in the U.S. – one in four of them are truck drivers. There’s no denying that that’s an impressive amount, especially considering there are only about 3 million professional truckers in the entire country. However, DMVs around the country issue more than 450,000 CDLs each year (That includes drivers who obtain a CDL for personal or farm use; it doesn’t account for all commercial drivers throughout the country).
In any case, veterans drive a lot of trucks. And there’s no sign of the community backing out of professional trucking any time soon. In fact, there’s a need for a whole slew of them to join in. Hence, the not-so-subtle call for military vets to join the career path.
Why is the Truck Driving Demand So High?
First things first – let’s consider why the demand for professional truck drivers is so high. Aside from the number of goods that’s going up – and the method in how they’re transported to stores – the last few years have seen a high level of driver turnover. The pandemic took a tool on the CDL community. Between not hosting enough drivers to share the workload and financial options to offset their checks, such as payout programs, many drivers opted to quit and either retire or switch careers.
The gap – and projected growth – combine to create an ongoing need for more and more professional truck drivers.
In other words, 2020 saw a mass exodus of truck drivers and the economy has yet to rebound from that loss. All, while more people are ordering online and more stores are having goods delivered by truck. The combination calls for a steady increase in truck drivers, and fast.
In the meantime, companies looking to hire are actually offering rates at 20% higher than in years past to help entice new drivers to join their respective teams.
Why do Truck Companies Target Military Veterans?
Now, let’s look at why this is an appealing job for military veterans … and why trucking companies also prefer to hire veterans.
As a veteran, a career in trucking can come with many perks. The gig is high-paying and usually comes with benefits, such as paid time off or retirement packages. It’s a steady career that allows for travel. And in most cases, drivers have a set or predictable schedule so they can plan to be with their friends and family X number of days, and on the road the rest of the time.
Usually, truck drivers also have the opportunity for career growth through raises, changing routes, or even the opportunity to buy into your company or start your own transportation company as an owner-operator.
For Trucking Companies:
As for the trucking companies themselves, there is plenty they see in veterans. Military veterans are known for their work ethic. They know how to show up to work on time, how to communicate, and how to work hard. If something is broken, they don’t throw in the towel, but rather, they find a way to fix it. Veterans are known for working in tough conditions, meaning they won’t give up at the first sign of hardship. They know how to work under pressure and take on big tasks. These, of course, are stereotypes, but among a short list of attributes that describe working veterans.
There is also a great deal of respect for veterans. They served their country, and gain favor among the public and employers alike. To boot, veterans aren’t wet behind their ears; they’ve put in time and have found maturity.
Many veterans also come in with their own truck driving experience. Whether they drove Humvees onto trailers, or worked in trucking before their time of service, there are many former military members who can skillfully drive a rig.
But there’s more to it than that – there are actual stats showing veterans are better, safer drivers, and more reliable employees.
Trucking experts conduct regular studies and they have shown that veteran truck drivers:
- Had 42% fewer accidents in recent years
- Drove 98% more miles than non-veteran drivers
- Had 68% fewer “involuntary terminations” (AKA firings)
What’s more is that veterans are trained to be away from families for long lengths of time; as truckers they likely see their family members more than they did while in the military. And while performing a less dangerous job.
Veterans also know that brotherhood – that family feeling that only the military can provide. They know what it’s like to work together and bond over a similar experience. That same camaraderie thrives within the trucking industry, calling veterans to flock to the career.
All types of reasons are cited by vets for becoming a truck driver – there are those who want to heal on the road. Those who want to travel. Those who want a steady job. And those who want to have a career that’s both important, meaningful and needed. Trucking fits all of those bills, and then some.
Trucking is also easy on the body, so long as you are able to sit for long periods of time and take time to exercise when you’re off the truck. Therefore, it’s a great option for retired military who aren’t ready to quit working. Older veterans can find a second and long-lasting career that won’t be hard on the body.
How to Become a Licensed Truck Driver
As a veteran – or a soon-to-be veteran – you have options in becoming a licensed CDL holder. If you already hold a CDL (commercial driver’s license), you should be able to easily apply to jobs. Do so yourself or opt for help from a local base, such as a career center who can help you create and submit a resume.
There is also a veteran’s skills test waiver, where qualified drivers can test their ability without having to take a driving course.
If you are looking to obtain your CDL, there are programs that allow you to train using your G.I. bill or scholarship funds. Several exist on bases or in larger towns. For example, Troops for Transportation is a CDL school for veterans in Fort Benning, GA and U.S. Truck Driving School, Inc. has locations in Denver and Colorado Springs, CO.
These schools often bring in recruiters too, so you can land a job before you even finish school.
A quick Google search brings up an infinite list; talk to a veteran rep to help sort through it all. Or, you can find a job where the company itself will pay for your training.
How Much Can Veterans Make as a Truck Driver?
The big question that all veterans considering truck driving want to know – how much money are we talking here? New driver rates start around $70,000 and go up from there. Certain certifications make drivers more valuable to a company. It’s likely that they will discuss these certifications – in military jargon – in your CDL school. Drivers can also take on additional certifications on their own, such as the ability to haul liquids or hazardous materials. These add-ons can greatly increase salary.
Aside from just the funds, there are more perks to becoming a truck driver as a veteran. There are those who travel with their spouse in-tow. Think about it, if you’re used to being on the go and your spouse no longer works – or doesn’t need to work – you can strap them in and take them with you as a passenger on your trucking route. Even better, your spouse gets their CDL and you double the salary with both of you driving. And, while they can’t help you driver, dogs are also common company for professional drivers and they make the miles go by much faster by having a furry friend alongside you.
Meanwhile, there is the flexibility of traveling or opting to choose a new route, competitive salary rates, and more. Get creative with it and use an app where you earn a few cents for each mile you travel; you’d rake it in. Or stop along the way for unique tourist destinations. Then again, maybe it’s simply a 9-to-5 gig and you’re ready to punch in and earn time off. There’s no right or wrong way to become a professional tractor trailer driver. The possibilities are endless for veterans-turned-truck drivers.
Is the Military in a Panic About Solider Mass Exodus?
For the first time in history, Uncle Sam found that it can’t scare soldiers into staying in the military. In decades past, soldiers remained in service due to the fear of getting out. Those with families worried about paying for health benefits and putting food on the table. Why risk it when the military was a sure bet?
Today, however, the ball is in the employee’s court. Companies are searching for skilled and qualified workers to join their brand. Trucking is just one such industry wherein soldiers can come in, even as a novice, and find good paying wages and health benefits. While it may be a sore subject for the U.S. government, this is a fact that brings freedom to veterans and current active-duty members alike.
What Does the Future Hold for Veterans? Truckers?
As the military, once again, changes its ranking system and the ability for soldiers to promote, it’s a safe assumption that more and more soldiers will leave their service before retirement. That’s paired with the information that Uncle Sam is likely cutting its force, due to recent budget cuts from the Biden administration. With the fear of being pushed out, even more soldiers will leave their respective military branches. That means more veterans looking for jobs in years to come.
Various industries will be waiting to take them on with open arms, including professional trucking. Delivery needs are only projected to grow, meaning that more and more truckers will be needed through the end of the decade.
Whether or not trucking as a career interests you or the veteran in your life, it’s an interesting study as to how the market is changing, and how veterans are in high demand for the career. Take a look at this growing gig and how it will continue to affect shopping and supply channels throughout the country.