April 2018

Fleet Management News & Business Info | Commercial Carrier Journal

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commercial carrier journal | april 2018 61 Werner Enterprises' GI Bill-funded apprenticeship programs help attract military veterans and mitigate the driver and technician shortages BY JEFF CRISSEY B y some estimates, the truck- ing industry currently has a shortage of 50,000 drivers. By 2026, the driver shortage could balloon to more than 176,000. Carriers of all sizes are struggling to attract, train and retain new hires just to keep up with the attrition rate. According to 2016 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 9.27 million military veterans not of retirement age, including 1.62 million between the ages of 18 and 34 and 4.35 million between the ages of 35 and 54. Starting in the 2000s, Werner Enter- prises (CCJ Top 250, No. 11) was among the initial wave of large carriers in the trucking industry to actively recruit U.S. service members returning from active duty to fill unseated trucks. But it was the company's efforts to provide a seamless transition from military to civilian life – including the establishment of industry-first driver and diesel mechanic apprentice- ship programs that allowed military veterans and their spouses to take full advantage of post-9/11 GI Bill educa- tion benefits – that earned the Omaha, Neb.-based truckload and logistics company Commercial Carrier Journal's 2018 Innovator of the Year honors. THE RIGHT THING TO DO Werner's initial focus on recruiting mili- tary veterans that began in the mid-2000s was borne out of a sense of obligation to help returning veterans find work and assimilate back into civilian life. "Returning home to meaningful and purposeful work is a big part of solving some of the issues you hear about veter- ans coming home and struggling to find their footing," says Derek Leathers, Wer- ner Enterprises president and chief execu- tive officer. "When they are over there in the military, they are doing purposeful work that matters, and they have a sense of pride. Coming back and helping move America's freight is purposeful work ver- sus finding themselves in some job that they struggle to feel why it matters." Guided by that clear purpose, Werner has developed and honed its military vet- eran recruiting efforts in the last 15 years into a first-class employment program that has won the company numerous awards from veteran groups, media out- lets, the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. "Words and slogans are easy," says Leathers about companies and industries that pay lip service to the military, "but actions and culture are much harder. … For us, that meant drawing a line in the sand and saying we believe someday Werner Enterprises uses its Operation Freedom Fleet to show the company's gratitude for U.S. military service members and veterans.

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