J.B. Hunt partners with Springdale truck driving school for CDL training of veterans

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 502 views 

J.B. Hunt Transport Services collaborated with Mid-America Truck Driving School and Northwest Technical Institute to establish a program allowing military veterans to receive commercial driver’s license training from the school.

Three military veterans with J.B. Hunt will be the first veterans to go through the Hunt’s Heroes program at the Springdale school, which is at the NTI campus. They started at the school Monday (May 22).

Stephen Shearman, military recruiting manager of the Hunt’s Heroes program for J.B. Hunt, said the company doesn’t hire prospective drivers without commercial driver’s licenses, but offers an exception for military veterans. The veterans will complete the four-week training program at NTI before another four weeks of training at a J.B. Hunt facility.

The carrier recently received grant money from the state to cover some of the training costs, and the company will cover the remainder of the costs for the prospective drivers. Burton Weis, senior director of driver personnel for J.B. Hunt, said the partnership with the truck driving school will help the company meet its 2014 pledge to hire 10,000 veterans by 2020. So far, the company has hired nearly 6,000 veterans and expects to meet its goal.

“As J.B. Hunt has a goal to be a $10 billion company by 2020, the same year as reaching 10,000 veterans, our Hunt’s Heroes program hires those transitioning veterans into the roles, we secure funding that allows them to relocate, have housing and training,” Weis said. “So these gentlemen here today are part of nearly 380 veterans who have joined our apprenticeship program, which — probably by the end of the year — will be at about 550.”

(from left) Eric Evans, Jonathan Lopez and Andrew Mitcham, all with J.B. Hunt, are the first students in the Hunt’s Heroes training program for military veterans at Mid-America Truck Driving School.

The company offers the program nationwide to fill positions in the lower 48 states.

“It’s not just about the local area,” Weis said. “We’re hiring nationally.”

Drivers who complete an apprenticeship program can earn $240,000 more in their career compared to their peers. Truck driving positions “pay well over $50,000,” Weis said.

“We look to expand our apprenticeship offerings, grow into these partnerships with these fine organizations, such as we’ve witnessed today,” he said.

NTI president Blake Robertson, who found out about the new program early last week, said J.B. Hunt will conduct the background checks and drug testing for those going through the program. He said an important part of the program will be driver retention. In the fourth quarter of 2016, driver turnover rate fell 10 percentage points to 71%, the lowest point in six years, according to trade organization American Trucking Associations. The rate is expected to rise as freight volumes recover and concerns about the driver shortage continue.

Burton Weis, senior director of driver personnel for J.B. Hunt, speaks Monday (May 22) at the kick off of the Hunt’s Heroes program at Mid-America Truck Driving School.

Doug Carter, president of Mid-America Truck Driving School, is thankful the school is a part of the Hunt’s Heroes program. Carter, who’s a U.S. Air Force veteran, said it’s a “pretty cool deal, very special actually.” It will allow drivers to receive good pay and an opportunity for advancement.

Mid-America Truck Driving School also has a location in Malvern, which has been open for about 15 years. The school in Springdale has been open for about three years. Weis said a partnership with the school has been in the works for more than two years.

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