SCHNECKSVILLE Pa. –- U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg spent Tuesday morning at a Pennsylvania community college celebrating a new federal grant program aimed at helping military veterans climb aboard big rigs for new careers.
The Commercial Motor Vehicle Operator Safety Training (CMVOST) grant program is being funded by a $3.1 million award from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
The grants are part of the Biden-Harris administration’s trillion-dollar Trucking Action Plan (TAP), which was announced earlier this year.
These grants will assist current and former members of the Armed Forces, who want to pursue careers in trucking, to obtain commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs), in addition to providing the training they will need to enter the profession, according to a USDOT news release.
Buttigieg spoke about the program Tuesday morning at Lehigh Carbon Community College in Pennsylvania, calling it a win-win for both vets and the trucking industry.
“Veterans know how to get things where they need to go safely,” he said. “At a time when our supply chain depends on having more qualified truck drivers, this program will give those who have served in uniform a new and important way to contribute, and benefit, by launching a new career in this vital industry.”
The CMVOST grant program has three goals, according to the USDOT.
- Expanding the number of CDL holders possessing enhanced operator safety training.
- Providing opportunities for current or former members of the United States Armed Forces (including National Guard members and reservists) and their spouses to enter trucking or bussing.
- Increasing training opportunities for candidates from underserved communities, as identified in the President’s Executive Order 13985.
“In 2022, FMCSA paved the way for a broader range of institutions to apply for CMVOST grants as the agency did not require applicants to propose a local matching share of funding,” a USDOT news release stated. “This expansion will allow more qualified candidates from across the country to more easily be able to afford the training and licensing needed to join the trucking profession commercial motor vehicle drivers.”
TAP has created new apprenticeship programs to recruit more truck drivers, as well as a compensation study and truck leasing task force to improve retention in the truck driving profession, according to the USDOT.
“This Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal will rebuild America’s roads, bridges and rails, upgrade and expand public transit, modernize the nation’s ports and airports, improve safety, tackle the climate crisis, advance environmental justice and invest in communities that have too often been left behind,” according to the USDOT. “It will drive the creation of good-paying union jobs and grow the economy sustainably and equitably to help everyone get ahead for decades to come.”
Jerry Smith, who served in the Gulf War in Iraq, said he is anxious to see what benefits he can obtain to become a truck driver. He said the thought of driving a tractor-trailer across country is “pretty exciting.”
“I have been wanting to learn a usable skill for a long time,” Smith said. “I had a couple of projects that I had hoped would work out, but with Covid and everything else with the bad economy, those didn’t work. “I am really looking forward to signing up and getting help to drive a truck.”
Veteran J. Sanders of Texas said she’s also hoping for a new career in trucking.
“I have always been interested in 18-wheelers, but if I can get help paying for school, it’s really not a hard decision anymore. I want to do this.”
More information about applying for the grant program will be released soon, according to a USDOT spokesman.
Born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and raised in East Texas, John Worthen returned to his home state to attend college in 1998 and decided to make his life in The Natural State. Worthen is a 20-year veteran of the journalism industry and has covered just about every topic there is. He has a passion for writing and telling stories. He has worked as a beat reporter and bureau chief for a statewide newspaper and as managing editor of a regional newspaper in Arkansas. Additionally, Worthen has been a prolific freelance journalist for two decades, and has been published in several travel magazines and on travel websites.