With combat operations winding down in Afghanistan and finished in Iraq, tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors, and airmen will be exiting the US military over the next few years. Many veterans already are finding it difficult to find jobs in the civilian world, and unemployment among veterans tops 12%.

At the same time, many tank truck carriers are struggling to find enough good quality truck drivers, mechanics, dispatchers, and terminal managers. The growing pool of recently discharged military personnel could fill many of the employee shortages at tank truck fleets.

Speaking in an interview in this issue of Bulk Transporter, National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) Chairman Greg Hodgen says many of the recently discharged veterans would be a good fit for the tank truck industry. These veterans are relatively young (under 40), have held high-pressure jobs, are skilled, and are highly responsible individuals.

Hodgen, who is also president and chief operating officer of Groendyke Transport Inc, adds that his company has identified military veterans as very desirable candidates for employment. Groendyke Transport is reaching out veterans in a number of ways, including online social media.

Other carriers also recognize the value of hiring veterans. For instance, Schneider National recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of its formal military recruitment program. The company, which includes Schneider National Bulk Carriers, announced it plans to hire 650 members of the military during 2012.

“The critical thinking skills, leadership, and motivation military personnel bring to the workforce are attractive in the fast-paced, complex environment of a modern-day transportation and logistics operation,” says Mike Hinz, Schneider National vice-president. “By working collaboratively with groups like the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, the Wisconsin National Guard, and the US Army Reserves' Employer Partnership Office, we have a huge opportunity to put more people to work in Wisconsin and across the United States.”

Through the years, Schneider National developed a number of programs specifically for current and former military personnel, including the Military Apprenticeship Program. Through this program, military members who become truck drivers are eligible to earn up to $1,069 per month in Veterans Administration education benefits in their first year, in addition to the Schneider National pay check.

Last year, Atlas Oil Company, a Michigan-based fuel supply and distribution specialist, began recruiting new truck drivers through the US Marine Corp's Troops-2-Truckers and the US Army's PaYS (Partnership in Youth Success) programs.

The Troops-2-Truckers program focuses on active-duty marines reaching the end of their military commitment. It provides transportation and logistics training and credentialing.

The Army PaYS program is similar but is focused on soldiers at the beginning of their enlistments, PaYS is a strategic partnership between the Army and a cross section of US corporations and public sector agencies. Under the terms of the agreement with Atlas Oil, the Army will make it possible for enlistees wanting specific civilian sector job training and qualification to get those skills while still in the Army.

For instance, as part of the enlistment process, recruits would sign a statement of understanding of intent to work for Atlas Oil upon completion of their term of service. As they near the end of enlistment, soldiers would have the opportunity to interview with Atlas Oil for a specific job at a specific location.

Why does Atlas Oil use the military for employee recruiting? It's very simple, according to Bob Kenyon, executive vice-president of sales and business development at Atlas Oil. “Military veterans help satisfy our need for better resources for recruiting drivers,” he says. “Some in the military have driven fuel trucks, and we can teach them our way of hauling fuel. This is giving us a great resource for expanding into new markets, and we are looking for more than just truck drivers. We're also looking for truck mechanics and people with other skills that fit our company. “

Programs, such as Troops-2-Truckers, have been around for several years, but many fleet managers say they haven't heard of them. Clearly the Department of Defense and Veterans Administration need to do a better job of spreading the word — both to industry and to members of the military.

The trucking industry also must be more proactive. Recruiting of veterans should be an integral component of NTTC's Driver Sustainability campaign. NTTC and other trucking groups could serve as a clearinghouse to help fleets deal with the federal bureaucracy to communicate job openings and qualifications to the growing ranks of veterans looking for jobs.

Many tank truck carriers already know the benefits of hiring military veterans. Hopefully, more carriers will sign onto the effort in coming months.