Array of Offerings Draws Veterans and Service Members to Trucking Field


by Tom Gresham

THE RECRUITMENT OF military veterans and service members continues to be a major point of emphasis throughout the trucking industry. Elise Leeson, vice president of human resources for Averitt Express, said it is clear why: Veterans are inherently well equipped to thrive in the trucking field and to strengthen the companies that employ them.

“Veterans possess a deep understanding of their obligation to their employer, colleagues and the public when it comes to prioritizing safety, accountability, dependability and efficiency,” Leeson said. “The military’s extensive training and exposure to advanced technology have equipped them with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in our industry.”


For employers, efforts to recruit and retain team members with military experience can take on many forms. There are also broader, industry-wide endeavors designed to entice those with a military background to transition to civilian trucking careers. In 2022, President Biden launched Task Force Movement, a private-public task force with a focus on helping veterans become truck drivers. The task force is designed to work with national veterans organizations to create a plan to attract vets and separating service members to the trucking industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, veterans make up approximately 10 percent of truck drivers. According to Task Force Movement, each year more than 20,000 service members who held either primary or secondary truck driving jobs separate from the military.

Experienced military drivers already have access to a variety of federal programs that smooth the path to a career in trucking, such as the Military Skills Test Waiver Program. That program allows qualified drivers with at least two years of experience safely operating heavy military vehicles to obtain a commercial driver’s license without taking the driving test. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, more than 40,000 service members and veterans have taken advantage of the program.

In addition, Georgia is among the states that participates in the Even Exchange Program, which allows qualified military drivers to be exempt from the knowledge test for obtaining a CDL. More recently, the FMCSA announced new grants dedicated to training veterans and their family members to safely operate CMVs, obtain their CDLs and enter the truck and bus driving profession.

“We’re proud that these grants are giving priority to current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces, including National Guard, reservists and their family members, to pursue a commercial driver’s license,” said FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson in a press release.

A number of trucking companies put their emphasis on recruiting service members and veterans in the foreground of their overall recruitment efforts. Both Averitt Express and the Bennett Family of Companies, for instance, have website pages within their careers website that are dedicated to recruiting veterans and providing them with an array of resources and information tailored to their needs and backgrounds.

Bill Trotter, vice president of capacity development at Bennett, said the company frequently hires drivers straight out of the military for its driveaway division, including both CDL and non-CDL drivers. Bennett’s recruiting efforts include visits and outreach to military bases.

Leeson said Averitt’s efforts to hire and support veterans include actively seeking out talent on military bases, at military job fairs and at civilian job fairs with a focus on veterans.

“We have also created blogs and a military recruiting video that highlight the experiences and opportunities available to veterans at Averitt,” Leeson said. “We also have trailers wrapped with military recruitment messaging throughout our network. Additionally, we are proud to offer GI bill training opportunities to help veterans further their education and skills.”


For trucking companies, Leeson said a key reason to emphasize hiring and retaining workers with a background in the armed forces is that they are a natural fit for the field and are indispensable additions in a variety of roles.

“The qualities that make someone successful in the military are also valuable in our industry: professional, disciplined, mission-driven and team-oriented,” Leeson said.

Similarly, Trotter said that among the characteristics service members and veterans often bring to work are dedication, dependability and being organized. Leeson said part of the driving motivation behind Averitt’s military-related recruitment is the positive experiences that it has already had with workers with a background in the armed forces. Leeson said that 15 percent of Averitt’s workforce — including drivers, dockworkers, leadership associates and administrative personnel — have served or are currently serving in the military.

“We have been incredibly impressed by the professionalism, dedication, discipline and mission-driven mindset of most veteran candidates,” Leeson said. “Military personnel have an unparalleled understanding of the importance of teamwork. Veterans have been immersed in a culture that values discipline, loyalty, respect, pride and accountability, making them an ideal fit for our organization. We deeply admire and appreciate the experience and skills that veterans bring to Averitt. We’ve found that veterans appreciate Averitt’s high professional uniform standards, which closely align with what they were accustomed to during their military service.”


Trotter said an essential ingredient for companies successfully recruiting and retaining workers with military experience is being authentic in their support. For instance, Bennett is active in the Wreaths Across America movement, which strives to place wreaths on the gravesites of veterans. Last year, Bennett worked to cover all 20,000-plus graves at the Andersonville National Cemetery in Georgia and plans to repeat that service again this year.

Bennett also has military-specific programs and offerings to help veterans and service members feel welcome and appreciated. For instance, “We have numerous trucks that have military veteran-based wraps on them,” Trotter said.

Leeson said Averitt has received a number of recognitions as an employer of current and former military personnel. These include being named a “Patriotic Employer” by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Program; a “Private-Public Partner” by the U.S. Army Reserve; and a “Military-Friendly Employer” and “Military-Friendly Spouse Employer” by Viqtory.

Among Averitt’s keys to success is not just outreach in hiring, but internal outreach to veterans after they become employees.

“We understand the value of welcoming veterans into our workforce, and we are passionate about encouraging others to do the same,” Leeson said. “We ensure that all military veterans receive acknowledgment by outfitting them with attire, including shirts and hats, featuring the designation ‘US Veteran.’ Additionally, we offer various other forms of recognition and opportunities to show appreciation for our veterans.”

Leeson said trucking companies striving to bolster their military hiring efforts should aim to recognize the unique value that veterans and others with a military background can offer, while also designing offerings that are tailored specifically to employees with that experience.

“It is crucial for companies to acknowledge and value the military experience of veterans,” Leeson said. “Additionally, companies should provide opportunities for career growth and training, as well as comprehensive compensation and benefit packages that cater to the needs of veterans and their families.”

When someone visits the Bennett facilities, they will receive a specialized visitor’s badge specific to the branch of the military they served in. Bennett also has flags for each of the military branches hanging in its shop.

“For us, it’s important that we don’t just honor them on Veterans Day — we want to honor our veterans every single day,” Trotter said. “It really comes back to not just talking the talk, but walking the walk and treating our veterans the way they deserve to be treated.”



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