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Program puts vets in driver’s seat

By Chelyen Davis

RICHMOND—If you’re a member of the military trained to drive heavy vehicles, Virginia would like to help you find a civilian job.

Gov. Bob McDonnell on Monday announced a new partnership aimed at linking service members who are leaving the military with jobs in the commercial trucking and busing industries.

Under a new “Troops to Trucks” program, the state Department of Motor Vehicles will make it easier for military personnel to get a commercial driver’s license.

This week the DMV certified two military installations—Quantico and Fort Lee—as third-party testers for CDLs.

Military members who have been trained to drive heavy vehicles and have two years of safe driving experience could have the CDL road test waived starting in July, under a new federal regulation.

The road test requires an applicant to provide a commercial vehicle in which to take the test, something McDonnell’s press release calls “often burdensome.” Military members would still have to take the written test.

Members of the military who don’t have experience driving heavy vehicles but are interested in getting a CDL can still benefit from the partnership. As third-party testers for the DMV, Quantico and Fort Lee will provide classroom instruction for those who want to get a CDL, and the DMV will send its mobile office to the bases to do the required written tests.

Those bases will also offer skills instruction required for getting a CDL.

Virginia is also working with the Virginia Trucking Association, the Virginia Motorcoach Association and the Virginia Association for Pupil Transportation to help employ military members who get their CDLs.

McDonnell said Virginia—with about 823,000 veterans, 63,000 active-duty military and 20 major military installations—is “an ideal place” to try the Troops to Trucks program.

He also said the program is open to reservists and National Guard members.

McDonnell called the program “a comprehensive collaborative effort by government and the private sector to assist those individuals who have served and sacrificed for our great nation. We have a duty to ensure they have training and employment opportunities in the future.”

The state program comes as the federal government is also working to create more job opportunities for service members entering civilian life.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that about $12 million in grants is available to provide job training services for veterans.

The grants are available through the Veterans’ Workforce Investment Program and could provide job training and skills development for about 6,000 veterans.

The program would award at least 10 grants in 10 states.

Also recently, President Barack Obama urged Congress to approve a bill creating a Veterans Job Corps to help veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq find jobs as police or firefighters.

Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028