New program pairs veterans with industry in need of workers

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - According to the American Trucking Association, the United States has a shortage of long-haul truck drivers that began during the economic downturn.

Virginia officials highlighted a new partnership to with the military geared to train and find jobs for veterans.

Because Virginia's unemployment rate is at 6.2 percent, far better than the national average, the state is seeing an uptick in distribution centers. In fact,  the Vitamin Shoppe recently announced plans to building a new one in Ashland.

However, there are not always enough truck drivers to move those goods. 

As aresult, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles teamed up with the military in July  to put former servicemen and women to work in the transportation industry.

If a military member has training through the military to operate heavy vehicles, then the DMV will make it easier for them to get a civilian commercial driver's license. That way  they can drive 18-wheelers, buses and other large vehicles.

Additionally, Fort Lee will become a place where vets without heavy vehicle experience can learn how to drive, including training for disabled vets.

Representative Eric Cantor talked up the program from the lot of Estes Trucking Lines in Richmond Friday.

"We have a vexing problem in this country about unemployment, but especially unemployment with our veterans," said Cantor. "And it's disgraceful that we have that, because we could never repay the men and women in uniform for what they've sacrificed for us."

Virginia has approximately 823,000 veterans and 20 major military installations, including those in the Hampton Roads and Virginia Beach areas.

According to the Virginia Trucking Association, those are places seeing more shippers locating their distribution centers and face a trucker shortage.

And when their training is complete, the program will also help the vets land a job. Once a military member has earned their new commercial drivers license, officials said they will be referred to at least three potential employers.