Senate Apprenticeship Bill Targets Veterans

Bipartisan Legislation Aims to Enhance Workforce
military driver
(Sgt. Jason Fetterolf/U.S. Army National Guard)

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Legislation that would expedite veterans benefits for interstate trucking apprenticeships was recently introduced in the U.S. Senate.

Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) are sponsoring a bill meant to improve the way in which veterans access commercial transportation apprenticeships with operations across multiple states.

The bipartisan Veterans Transition to Trucking Act’s focus on the freight workforce is central to its aim.

“Truckers and transportation workers fuel our economy, and we’ve got to be doing everything we can to bring more qualified truckers into the fold, including our nation’s veterans,” said Tester, chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, on March 19. “Our common-sense bill will cut bureaucratic red tape and ensure veterans looking to use their [Veterans Affairs] education benefits to access trucking apprenticeships can more easily do so.”

“Let’s help veterans any way in which we can,” added Cassidy, ranking member on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “Having a commercial driver’s license is a great career. Let’s make sure the veterans know about it.”

The legislation, referred to a committee with jurisdiction for consideration, would specifically allow “interstate commercial carriers to get one approval for their apprenticeship programs from [Veterans Affairs] — making it easier for veterans to access trucking apprenticeship programs,” according to background information the sponsors provided. Presently, a trucking firm with operations covering several states must gain multi-jurisdictional approval in order for veterans to access VA benefits for such apprenticeships.

Stakeholders endorsing the bill include the Disabled American Veterans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Trucking Associations along with state trucking associations.

“ATA thanks Sens. Tester and Cassidy for introducing this common-sense solution that will make it easier to stand up apprenticeship programs for our nation’s veterans,” ATA Senior Vice President of Legislative Affairs Henry Hanscom said in a statement that accompanied the measure’s introduction. “America’s trucking industry needs drivers, and making it easier for the men and women who have served our country to enter fulfilling careers in trucking is a win-win. ATA supports this legislation and looks forward to working with Congress to enact these bipartisan reforms into law.”

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Renee Amar, executive director of the Louisiana Motor Truck Association, and Duane Williams, CEO of the Montana Trucking Association, added: “It is vitally important that we make it easier for the service members who have safeguarded our freedoms to have job training opportunities and stable careers in dynamic industries like trucking when they return home. We support this legislation and look forward to working with our federation partners to encourage its passage by Congress.”

“The VFW supports the Veterans Transition to Trucking Act to allow VA to approve apprenticeship programs operated by interstate commercial carriers,” observed Kristina Keenan, VFW deputy director for national legislative service.

Disabled American Veterans National Commander Nancy Espinosa added, “With many veterans being drawn to the trucking industry, it’s important that our nation eases the pathway for them to acquire commercial driving licenses.”