Arkansas, U.S. trucking companies push to hire 100,000 veterans

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 183 views 

Arkansas-based trucking companies like Lowell-based J.B. Hunt Transport and Fort Smith-based ArcBest are involved with the American Trucking Associations push for the industry to hire 100,000 veterans in the next two years. The program should also help with the industry’s growing driver shortage.

The ATA effort, announced Dec. 2, is part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring 500,000 Heroes campaign.

“There’s no higher calling for an American than to serve in our armed forces, and I’d like to think that driving a truck – delivering America’s most essential goods safely and efficiently is also a high calling,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said in a statement.

The U.S. Chamber veteran hiring program was launched March 2011, with more than 1,700 companies agreeing to participate. According to the ATA, the chamber program has resulted in 369,000 “confirmed hires” of veterans.

ATA and Hiring Our Heroes will use FASTPORT’s trucking track system as a single portal to help match veterans with fleets with openings.
“Trucking has always been a favorite industry for our veterans because they are already trained to succeed in many great career paths," said Bill McLennan, CEO of FASTPORT. “ATA’s leadership and call to action from its members demonstrate the industry's affinity for hiring veterans and we are honored to help our talented veterans find great careers with those great employers in the trucking industry.”

J.B. Hunt signed on to FASTPORT in May.

“By joining forces with Hiring Our Heroes and FASTPORT, J.B. Hunt will be able to showcase our multiple career avenues in a ‘one-stop-shop’ for veterans and their spouses and communicate quickly and directly with those that have already made the transition to civilian life as well as those that are just starting the process out-of-country,” Craig Harper, J.B. Hunt executive vice president-driver personnel and operations, said in the May 30 statement.

Harper also noted that company founder J.B. Hunt transitioned from the U.S. Army to become a truck driver and build what is now a global logistics company.

“We need more service men and women to follow in his footsteps,” Harper said.

Also pushing to find drivers through the program is ABF Freight, a less-than-truckload carrier and the largest subsidiary of Fort Smith-based ArcBest. ABF Freight President Tim Thorne is a veteran, having once served as a captain in the U.S. Army. Not only is ABF working with ATA, but the company has partnered with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to provide training to active duty military members.

“ABF Freight strongly supports the ongoing initiative to hire vets. … In fact, we’re proud to say that ABF Freight has recently teamed up with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Army under the Teamster Military Assistance Program (TMAP),” Thorne said. “This program will allow ABF Freight Driver Development Instructors to train soldiers who are still active military personnel to safely operate a combination motor vehicle and obtain their Class A CDL driver’s license. Upon completion, these transitioning soldiers will be offered a driving position with ABF Freight at one of the terminals throughout our system.”

Burton Weis, vice president of human resources for Van Buren-based USA Truck, said almost 25% of the employees with the long-haul carrier and logistics company have served or are serving in the military.

“We consider the hiring of the men and women of our nation’s Armed Forces to be our corporate responsibility for the sacrifices made by them and their families. We make a concerted effort to bring veterans onto our team, both in driving and non-driving capacities, because they embody many of the characteristics we value — among them drive, discipline, pride, motivation, a strong work ethic and high moral fiber,” Weis said.

The USA Truck statement also noted that Robert Powell, one of the company’s founders, was a Naval aviator.

“USA Truck has a long history of military support, established by one of the company’s founders — Robert Powell, a former military aviator — and reflected in its star and bar insignia. USA Truck also shows support through its partnership with the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund,” the company noted in a statement to The City Wire.

USA Truck is scheduled to be presented the ESGR Patriot Award on Dec. 9 for its of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defense office dedicated to promoting Reserve Component Service members and their civilian employers for more than 40 years.

The U.S. trucking industry is in the midst of a driver shortage problem.

“How big the shortage is depends on whom you ask. But there are fewer working truck drivers today than there were before the recession. Driver turnover at large truckload fleets has been above 90 percent for eight straight quarters. And driver pay remains below the U.S. average,” noted a special section by the Journal of Commerce focused on the driver shortage problem. “A growing number of trucking executives say poor — and unpredictable — pay is the primary reason for the shortage of new drivers.”

Schneider National, the nation’s second-largest truckload company, recently announced a 13% pay hike for drivers. In September, Swift Transportation boosted driver pay and the company reported that the number of trucks without drivers fell about 20%.

The JOC section indicates the industry had an estimated 1.585 million drivers in 2013, well below the 1.693 million in 2007. The section also notes that average driver wage in 2013 was $40,960, up 1.4% compared to 2012, but still almost 12% below the national average wage.

Driver turnover is a costly issue for the industry.

“If the cost of hiring a driver averages $5,000, a company with 200 drivers and a 100 percent turnover rate would spend $1 million a year on recruitment alone. High turnover also makes it difficult for fleets to operate efficiently, maximize utilization of tractors and trailers and meet customers’ service expectations,” noted the ATA in a December 2013 report.