From the Battlefront to the Interstate: How Allowing Veterans to Waive the CDL Will Change Trucking

Image: DVIDSHUB

Image: DVIDSHUB

To answer an incredible demand for truckers, President Obama has passed legislation that allows states to adopt laws that permit qualified military veterans to waive the CDL test. The CDL (commercial driver’s license) test ensures that drivers are familiar and capable with commercial trucks. Thirty-four states have followed through with passing these laws so far; nine more states are considering passing them as well.


Anyone with a vested interest in the trucking industry knows the shaky news starting just a few years ago. Major news outlets have repeatedly trumpeted the massive need for truckers. “Wanted: 400,000 truck drivers,” calls CNN. “Truck Drivers Wanted: Jobs Hard To Fill Even In Bad Economy,” the Huffington Post reports. Economists have grown alarmed that truckers aren’t filling as many positions as they should for a United States just recovering from a recession. This need is growing larger − and is expected to balloon another 21 percent by the time we reach 2020. All of this is despite the fact that the industry has practically zero unemployment; it’s not unheard of for drivers to get half a dozen job offers before their training is even complete.

This demand is coupled with the concern that many drivers are nearing retirement. A study by CCJ reported that one out of three company drivers are aged 55 or older. A mere 6 percent of drivers are below the age of 35.
This initiative is only one of many to inspire more people to start trucking to keep our economy’s lifeblood going. Those who favor these laws not only value its impact on our economic reform, but also acknowledge the positive virtues that veterans acquire through service that can help them on their new trucking careers − such as discipline and focus.

But many within the trucking industry are alarmed by these laws, regardless of the mounting need for more truckers. The deputy director of the Commercial Vehicle Training Association spoke about the issues of this legislation with Truckinginfo, a trucking magazine.

“You can’t take someone directly out of the military and put him in an 18-wheeler,” she spoke. She pointed out that 80% of commercial trucks are equipped with manual transmissions as opposed to the military’s − whose trucks are 98% automatic. She advocated training that specifically addresses the standards and equipment of commercial truck driving, since military truck driving experience may not be entirely applicable to commercial trucks. For example, more than 95% of trucks used by the military only qualify as Class B. Individuals like Cindy advocate trucker education, such as programs that are specifically tailored to help military veterans learn the ropes.

Although there are concerns about the compatibility of military driving training with commercial vehicles, the initiative should be one to gather tens of thousands of veterans every year to join the profession. With more vacancies than applicants, the boon of being able to waive the CDL test will provide our nation with more truckers − and consequentially aid our economic recovery in the long term. Over time, the notion of truckers being veterans may be as quintessential to the USA’s trucking culture as trucker hats and CB radio. Only time will tell how veterans will shape the profession.

How do you think allowing veterans to waive the CDL test will affect trucking?

Hank Barton is a second generation trucker, philosopher, and occasional writer who enjoys musing about long haul trucking and life on the road. He currently writes for eGears.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,