The American Trucking Associations (ATA) is supporting federal legislation introduced by Senators Conrad Burns (R-MT) and Mark Pryor (D-AR) that will ease the transition of military veterans to civilian jobs and provide a partial solution to the nation's truck driver shortage.
Known as the Veterans Employment Training Act of 2006, Senate Bill 2416 would add trucking to the list of industry sectors for which servicemen and women moving to the civilian job market could receive expedited financial aid.
Under the current Montgomery GI Bill, the Veterans Administration covers up to 60 percent of the cost of some educational benefits to make short-term, high-cost training programs more attractive to veterans. However, these lump sum benefits currently are available only to veterans pursuing high-tech occupations.
The Burns-Pryor legislation would add trucking to the list that now includes the construction, hospitality, financial services, energy, homeland security, and health care.
"The men and women leaving the Armed Forces have all the motivation and tools to move successfully from the military into many areas within our industry," said Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. "We appreciate the leadership of Senators Burns and Pryor for supporting expedited training and transition incentives for them and urge other members of the Senate to support their initiative."
The long-haul, heavy-duty truck transportation industry in the United States currently is experiencing a national shortage of 20,000 truck drivers. That shortage of long-haul truck drivers could increase to 111,000 by 2014 if current demographic trends stay their course and if the overall labor force continues to grow at a slower pace, ATA said.
The driver shortage comes as the trucking industry is hauling more freight than ever. And, total annual tonnage hauled by truck is expected to increase to 13 billion tons by 2016 from 9.8 billion tons in 2004.
In efforts to build up its current driver corps and to meet future needs, the motor carrier industry aggressively is recruiting new drivers, with a strong focus on servicemen and women returning to civilian life.