ATA supports easing vets into driver seats

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) is supporting a move in the Senate to ease the transition of military veterans to civilian jobs and provide a partial solution to the truck driver shortage, according to ATA information.

ATA responded to a hearing in which Senators Conrad Burns (R-MT) and Mark Pryor (D-AR) said that the Veterans Employment Training Act of 2006 would expand eligibility for accelerated GI Bill benefits, giving many veterans an opportunity to obtain training and employment in some of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy, including transportation. The act would add trucking to the list of industry sectors for which servicemen and servicewomen moving to the civilian job market could receive expedited financial aid.

Under the current 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 expand the list of occupations eligible for accelerated GI bill benefits to any industry identified by the Department of Labor as high-growth, including transportation, construction, hospitality, financial services, energy, homeland security, and health care.

The long-haul, heavy-duty truck transportation industry in the United States currently is experiencing a national shortage of 20,000 truck drivers, ATA estimated. 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. The driver shortage comes as the trucking industry is hauling more freight than ever. Total annual tonnage hauled by truck is expected to increase to 13 billion tons by 2016 from 9.8 billion tons in 2004. To build up its current driver corps and meet future needs, the motor carrier industry aggressively is recruiting new drivers, with a strong focus on servicemen and servicewomen returning to civilian life.

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