As Professional Trucker Pool Dips in Numbers, LBCC Looks to Veterans to Help Fill Trucker Workforce

Following a previous $440,000 grant from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office–in addition to $450,000 in industry pledges, mainly headed by the Harbor Trucking Association–Long Beach City College (LBCC) can now add an additional $211,733 from the Department of Transportation (DOT) to help boost its professional truck driving training program.<

The newer grant–offered through the DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration–will be geared towards a very specific population: veterans and military families.

The move is smart on a multitude of levels.

Firstly, and more than any other homogenous group, veterans referred to as the “Gulf War Era II” (GWEII) type face the highest unemployment rate in Los Angeles County–a staggering 18% that has increased with every consecutive year since 2001, far beyond the 5.9% unemployment average of Gulf War veterans. Adjust by age, dipping into those below the age of 25, one begins to go above 20%. There are numerous factors that could contribute to this slippage in the hiring of veterans: 28% of GWEII veterans have a service-related disability and almost 10% are at least rated with a 60% disablement.

However, there are just as many factors that make their unemployment rate bemusing: they are, overall, desirable hires with their attention to details, discipline, off-the-cuff problem solving skills, leadership experience, and–one of the most important in the case we’re discussing–trade skills that do not need to be taught but simply honed for certain jobs. In this case, professional truckers.

Secondly, 2012 saw a loss of 7,000 needed trucking positions with the Long Beach/Los Angeles area. This is largely (though not entirely) explained by two things. For one, smaller trucking companies, following the stricter and much-needed green laws enacted by the ports, had to fold due to their inability to keep up with more environmentally-friendly equipment and standards. Additionally, many trucking position were offered to recently-released felons or immigrants; however, post-9/11 times have put far more stricter conditions on who can carry what (this is mainly dictated by Homeland Security).

The DOT’s grant attempts to ameliorate both situations–a lack of employment amongst veterans and a growing need for truckers–and LBCC will happily have the ability to distance itself from public criticism over its massive cuts to trade programs earlier this year.

And with 325,000 veterans in L.A. County (and 600 veterans at LBCC alone), the program looks to be promising for those seeking a job (not to mention a better life) as the ports–particularly Long Beach–work with enacting tougher environmental requirements and keeping up a needed workforce.

“This entire endeavor epitomizes how education and workforce providers can engage with one another,” said Lou Anne Bynum, Executive Vice President of College Advancement and Economic Development, when speaking to Streetsblog.

Even more impressively, Bynum emphasized that the typical 2-years commercial experience requisite required for many professional truck drivers will be waived in the program through the auspices of an insurance broker–part of the Harbor Trucking Association–who will serve as an intermediary with trucking companies.

Originally slated to bring on 100 graduates in its two-year test period, the program is now expected to take on 220 graduates, at least 60 of which will be veterans.

“Sixty?” asked Bynum. “We don’t like minimums–we hopefully plan for much more than that.”