58th Transportation Battalion, DOT work to bridge training gaps
October 13, 2012
By Amy Newcomb
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- (Oct. 11, 2012) The Department of Defense and Department of Transportation sent representatives to Fort Leonard Wood in September to review the 58th Transportation Battalion Motor Transport Operator Course and determine the gaps between military and commercial truck driver training.
Lamon Miller, 58th Trans. Bn. MTOC chief, said the two departments were close to finalizing the details on the disparity between the two courses.
"It's just a matter of figuring out which details need to be added from their perspective ,and what details we need to take away in order to reach that point," Miller said. "What it boils down to is trying to link us to a credentialing standpoint."
The National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 and legislation MAP-21, requires the DoD and DOT, respectively, to work together in order to ease the transition of Soldiers from military to civilian jobs. These laws specifically address the 88M Military Occupational Specialty and how to convert the MOS to commercial truck driving.
"What we are trying to do is see how far away we are from the Soldiers not only getting the training here but as they get to their gaining units adding that training to see how far away we are from a Soldier getting out of the military or retiring and walking into a DMV and saying, 'I have these credentials, can I get a Commercial Drivers License?" Miller said.
Jeffrey Skinner, Army Drivers Standardization Office chief at Fort Lee, Va., said the meeting took place between the DoD and DOT to set the groundwork for how the Army can adjust training in order for Soldiers to meet the standards to obtain their CDL.
The DoD mandate will implement a pilot program, which will report recommendations to Congress on how to fill the gaps between the two programs. Also, the DOT law requires a gap analysis study of the two distinctly different testing programs to compare costs of testing in the Army to the civilian sector.
Throughout the discussions, the teams addressed issues such as the drug and alcohol testing process as well as performance testing. For the past three years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been working with components of the Army to address these issues.
Selden Fritschner, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration chief, said from the DOTs perspective, working with their counterparts to ensure the transition between the military and civilian sector is as smooth as possible, while still assuring only qualified safe drivers are licensed, has been a positive experience.
"The Department of Transportation has been working closely with other Federal departments -- Labor, Veterans Affairs, and the Office of Personnel Management as well as outside organizations such as the American Legion and representatives of the trucking industry to assist in the hiring process," Fritschner added.
According to Fritschner, the biggest challenges that will be faced in transitioning 88M Soldiers into Commercial Truck Drivers are not only acquiring the CDL license, but also finding Soldiers jobs within the trucking industry.
"One of the most obvious gaps in the testing process is that almost all 88M Soldiers are trained and operate trucks using an automatic transmission. Almost the entire commercial trucking industry for large trucks -- 80,000 lbs -- uses manual transmissions," Fritschner said.
However, some companies have indicated informally they will work to train Soldiers with 88M designation to drive the manual transmission, he added.
When the pilot program is implemented, the teams will continue to address the differences in order to find common ground with the ultimate goal of comparing and bridging gaps in the written and skills testing performed during initial 88M training for the Army and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators Commercial Drivers License testing.
The outcomes of these collaborative visits with the DoD and DOT continue to lead to an easier transition for 88M's into the civilian job market at the completion of their service to their country. This would be a benefit to the individual Soldier, their future civilian employer and their communities on the whole.