Transportation Offers a Wide Open Road for Job Opportunities
Jobs in the transportation industry are so vast – for those in the enlisted ranks, all the way up to senior officers – that the only place a job seeker can go wrong is signing up with a company that isn’t right for them, recruiters say. This is especially true in the trucking arena, which is grasping for qualified candidates due to a retiring workforce.
With many states greasing the skids for veterans by waiving license and certification requirements in various transportation occupations, it’s becoming easier than ever for job seekers to land a lucrative position.
In short, as a veteran, you’re a hot commodity, says Dr. Laurence Shatkin, author of 150 Best Jobs Through Military Training.
“The military does a massive amount of transportation, from troops to materials, and it uses many of the same modes of transportation that the civilian economy uses. Therefore, many veterans enter the civilian job market with valuable experience and skills,” Shatkin says, adding that the military is probably the best place to learn skills for transportation security.
Recruiters are attracted by your work habits that are part of every military job: teamwork and a sense of responsibility; acceptance of a chain of command; going by the book and keeping proper documentation; being able to improvise when necessary to accomplish the mission; and being able to work in diverse locations and with diverse populations. “Also, many transportation jobs are not sedentary and require physical fitness,” Shatkin says.
Outlook for Transportation Jobs
Transportation is a major segment of the economy and includes the postal service, warehousing and pipelines, as well as the trucking, airline and shipping industries.
“Like most industries, it suffered a setback during the Great Recession, as the dip in business activity resulted in less need to move goods, less business spending on out-of-town meetings and less consumer spending on vacations. However, it has bounced back from that lull and is expected to continue to grow. In the short run, the low price of diesel and jet fuel will contribute to large profits by carriers,” Shatkin says.
One out of every seven jobs in the United States is transportation-related, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. However, the outlook for different transportation segments varies. The railroads carry 40 percent of the goods shipped in the United States, but the infrastructure is suffering from years of neglect and is holding back growth, even as it strains under the demands of large shipments of oil and crops, Shatkin says. As stated earlier, the trucking industry has an increasing shortage of qualified drivers, so a wide swath of jobs is available. And in the airlines, “job growth has been held back, as repeated mergers have created redundancies. But the pace of consolidation seems likely to slow simply because there are so few players left,” he says.
Some potential jobs for former military officers include piloting an aircraft or ship, managing a store or warehouse, planning logistics and managing maintenance of transportation equipment. Former enlisted personnel have possible careers that include specialist jobs working with cargo, logistics, petroleum supply, preventive maintenance, driving, navigating and warehousing, Shatkin says.
Trucking: A Good Bet for Job Seekers
There is currently a shortage in the trucking industry for Class A Commercial Drivers, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes Trucking Track Program (called FASTPORT). The trucking industry has committed to hiring more than 100,000 veterans during the next two years, as it faces an estimated shortage of 235,000 drivers.
Truck driving jobs of today are not like they were 10 or even five years ago, says Rob Reich, Senior Vice President, Equipment, Maintenance & Driver Recruiting at Schneider National Inc. Today, more than 75 percent of Schneider’s drivers get home on a weekly basis or more, he says.
“Schneider provides drivers with an array of driving opportunities that meet personal and time-at-home needs including Tanker, Regional, Intermodal and Dedicated options. For drivers looking for more traditional driving positions, Schneider also still offers long-haul roles,” Reich says.
Trucking companies like Crete Carrier Corp. are fiercely competing for your attention, says Judi Shoup, Corporate Recruiter. The company’s two corporate divisions - Crete and Shaffer Trucking - estimate hiring a minimum of 3,000 new drivers during the fiscal year, which goes from October 2014 to October 2015.
Your biggest problem in your job hunt isn’t finding employment. It’s making sure you’ll be working for the company that best suits your needs, Shoup says.
“Drivers have told me one of the reasons they decided to go with us was how I treated them during the recruiting process. I’m thorough and patient with their questions. This is a whole new world for veterans. I’ve done the transition myself and understand how important it is to have the information. My husband is a veteran as well,” Shoup says. “If a company isn’t willing to answer your questions, it’s a red flag. If they do a tap dance on the phone, it’s a red flag. Their job is to field questions.”
Start your search by researching companies long before you exit the military. Call recruiting hotlines, check corporate websites and apply for a position if it interests you. “It’s important as you’re looking to find out what kind of driving they have available for you,” Shoup says. For example, find out what kind of freight they have, how long you would be on the road (distance and work schedule) and what works best for your family.
Veterans make up 35 percent of the employment force at TMC Transportation, says Cheryl Freauff, Driver Recruiting Manager. Freauff is also a former U.S. Marine. When seeking a company, look for those that have made veterans a priority, she says. Last year, TMC hired 500 military veterans as drivers, and it expects to hire the same number in 2015.
“We have been hiring veterans for some time now - before it was fashionable to do so, and before there were incentives and pushes to do so,” Freauff says. Her advice to find the best fit for you? Be engaged in the hiring process.
“In this industry, companies are receiving hundreds of applications on a daily basis, and it’s difficult to get through all of them. If you miss a call or don’t connect with someone, circle around and make the phone call again,” Freauff says. “If you’re a passive applicant, you’re not going to get the same attention.”
Last year, Schneider hired 2,704 veterans, and 25 percent of employees are veterans, Reich says. “We have hundreds of jobs available throughout the country for drivers, mechanics and office associates,” Reich says.
One way to find military-friendly companies is to look into the Military Apprenticeship Program and learn about the companies that are members, he says. Former military members who are enrolled in the program and are employed at participating companies earn a weekly paycheck from the VA in addition to their regular paycheck. Complete details can be found here: http://schneiderjobs.com/company-drivers/military/apprenticeship-program.
Also seek out companies with strong support programs for employees who are veterans, Reich says. For example, Schneider offers the Vet to Vet Training Program. Launched in January 2013, it matches newly hired driving school graduates coming out of the military with “driving-training engineers” who also have a military background.
Other Job Options
And remember that the transportation industry is about more than driving. Freauff has hired veterans to fill her sales force (selling actual freight). She also needs fleet managers. They work with drivers every day.
“It takes a lot of coordination,” she says. “This job does fit in well with the military side of things. Fleet managers who are veterans are able to manage different personality styles in different parts of the country.”
There are also job opportunities in information technology, accounting, administration, and, because of a fleet of trucks - mechanics and shop work.
Aside from trucking, you might want to check into public transportation if you live in a large metropolitan area. The American Public Transportation Association says there is an array of career opportunities for veterans, including vehicle operations; vehicle maintenance; facilities, track and road maintenance; safety and security; and clerical, telecommunications, administrative and managerial staff. If you have a background in transportation, logistics, finance, management, data systems, architecture, engineering, information technology, procurement, or project development and planning, you’re in high demand.
A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is for truck drivers who go across state lines and operate any type of vehicle that has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of more than 26,000 pounds, or any single vehicle with a gross weight of at least that much for commercial use. You may qualify for the Military Skills Test Waiver if you have at least two years of safe driving experience in a large truck or bus during your military service. Check with your state’s licensing agency for its allowances (http://www.cdldigest.com/cdl/state_cdl_licensing_agencies.html).
Companies have varying hiring requirements when it comes to licensing and training. They will usually accept the license waiver but may suggest that you go through their training or apprenticeship courses. For example, at TMC, veterans get the CDL waiver and are not required to go through a driving school, but they go through an apprenticeship program, Freauff says. And at Crete, although veterans are not required to go through Crete’s school, many volunteer to do it, anyway, Shoup says.
“One thing you can’t learn on the fly is how to shift these trucks. I want my drivers to be confident,” Shoup says. “So if they’re more comfortable after a three-week or an eight-week school, I want them to go through the school. It will make them a better driver.”
Heidi Lynn Russell writes about employment and business issues.
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