Let’s give military veterans a chance

One of the highlights of this job, is having the opportunity each year to reward a deserving professional driver.

We at Truck News used to do so as part of our long-running Owner-Operator of the Year award, and now we have teamed with sister publication Today’s Trucking to present the Highway Star of the Year award.

Trucking can be a thankless job, and to be able to present a winner with a check for $10,000, a trip to Truck World in Toronto, and an assortment of other prizes, is a real honor. Choosing a winner for this award is not a task that any of us on the selection committee take lightly.

With so many deserving candidates, you do worry about the implications of getting it wrong. But within minutes of meeting this year’s winner, Douglas McGowan, whose story you can read on the cover of this month’s issue, there was no question we got it right.

And why wouldn’t we? Military veterans make great truck drivers. They’re disciplined. Independent. They’re problem solvers. They take direction well. These are all attributes that make for a good professional truck driver. In the U.S., this is well understood, with many large fleets implementing formal programs to attract returning military veterans as they transition into civilian life.

And here in Canada, some fleets have undertaken similar efforts. But apparently, too few.

McGowan explained how he – despite having a clean 25-year military career and receiving the highest security clearances available from the Canadian government – struggled to get so much as an interview when he began his transition to civilian life. He sent out 101 resumes – about 40% of which went to trucking employers – and was offered not a single opportunity. This, despite having driven just about every piece of heavy equipment operated by the Canadian military, in extremely challenging conditions.

It wasn’t until McGowan relentlessly pursued a job hauling propane in Western Canada that he finally was given an opportunity to demonstrate his skills. McGowan, in his interview with Truck News, suggested there is a stigma in Canada against hiring ex-military personnel.

And yet, this industry bemoans the fact it can’t find enough talent to keep the wheels turning. As an industry, I feel we owe it to our military veterans – and to ourselves – to give them a chance when they come knocking. I’m sure there are other Highway Stars among them.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • How I got my start in 90-91 after getting out of the military and struggled for six years , then I walked into kee transport in Calgary and was working steady for the next 14 years .. thanks to kerian o’brein and his team !!

  • I have 28 years of service in the CAF and I got a job with a highly respected carrier (difficult to get hired on) no problem, and so far it’s been great. However, I learned how to drive from my father who had over 3,000,000 safe driving miles. I started driving a truck around the yard when I was 13 years old. I got a driver’s job at this company on my own merit because of him and his investment in me, not my military service, and I drove everything you could think of while I was in the service… but a few things you should know. The Canadian military is not the same as the U.S. military. Driving skills specific work is sporadic, it’s usually in a tightly controlled environment for short durations (a few weeks, maybe a couple months) and most of the time the supervisors don’t know what they don’t know, so it’s inefficient and sometimes unnecessarily dangerous or conversely unnecessarily risk averse. All I’m saying is that a carrier should proceed with caution when hiring… just as they would with someone off the street, because yes… the driver might be great, or they could be a bag of hammers.
    So, yes, veterans should be given a chance. However they should not be given a pass.
    And, yes, some of them claim to have operated all kinds of heavy military equipment, however some, if not most of them, have no quality experience driving tractor-trailer combinations on public roads, nor do they know anything more about the industry than the average applicant coming off the street.
    My advice to the industry… work it case by case, and don’t rely on general statements that have aspirational words like “discipline”, “ethos” and “military culture”. Do discriminate (on qualifications and experience only… NOT race, religion, gender, ethnicity, etc.) about who you choose to hire, it’s your pocket book when it comes to insurance and maintenance, and some of these people who hold veteran status… well it could get costly for you. The good ones, the ones worth your effort, won’t be offended by any of this because they have what it takes to do the job.