Va. Guard Soldiers earn civilian credit for military experience

Spc. James Banks, pictured above, of the 1173rd Transportation Company, 1030th Transportation Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group was the first Troops to Trucks participant at his local DMV in Onnancock, Va. Troops to Trucks is a new program that helps military members translate military driving experience into civilian credentials that may help them find employment. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

SANDSTON, Va. – Virginia National Guard Soldiers have an easier way to translate their military driving skills into civilian credentials thanks to a program called Troops to Trucks that’s helped several Soldiers find employment. In 2012, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles started the program, which simplifies the process of obtaining a commercial driver’s license for those military members with adequate driving experience gained through the military.

“One of my Soldiers was able to get a job about three weeks later,” Capt. William Angle, commander of Company A, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, said. “He’s recently back from deployment and needed worked. He’s an experienced truck driver but didn’t have a CDL. He got the waiver, took it to the DMV the next week and obtained his CDL, then got a job.”

The program was officially launched in the beginning of July 2012 and partners the DMV with Virginia’s many military entities and transportation-related businesses to generate employment opportunities for current or former servicemembers and has helped several Virginia Guard Soldiers obtain employment. According to the DMV, “Virginia is an ideal place to launch this program since Virginia has a large number of military installations…over 823,000 veterans, and approximately 63,000 active-duty military,” many who have been trained to operate large vehicles that meet the DMV’s definition of a commercial motor vehicle.

“What I think is positive about this is that people in the military have all this experience driving, but it didn’t translate over before, but now they can take those skills directly and get a civilian driver’s license for what they’ve already been doing in the military,” said 1st Lt. Bryan Hicks, Virginia Guard Apprenticeship Program Coordinator.

The Troops to Trucks program does two things for servicemembers: first, it waives the requirement for a road skills test for military CDL holders, eliminating the need for them to provide a CMV for the road skills test usually required when applying for a civilian CDL and allowing their military driving experience, with proof from their commander, to serve as evidence of their driving proficiency. Second, the DMV also provides a “listing of trucking and motor coach employment openings and opportunities” for those military members actively seeking employment.

“Basically, if you’ve had a military equivalent driver’s license for two years prior and you can get your commander to sign off and verify that, then you can take the required form, called a DL-13, and you can use that to get a CDL,” explained Hicks.

To be eligible to participate in the Troops to Trucks program, Soldiers must meet the following requirements:

• Have a minimum of two years driving a CMV representative of the class of vehicle they hope to obtain a CDL for.
• Be in the military or discharged from the military within the past 90 days.
• Be a Virginia resident or eligible for a Virginia driver’s license.
• Successfully complete the knowledge test .
• Arrive at the DMV with a signed and notarized CDL skills test waiver form from their commander.

The CDL skills test waiver form requires an applicant’s commander to verify the experience of the applicant, as well as the class of vehicle operated by the servicemember. The applicant also certifies his or her driving experience, the class of vehicle they have experience driving and that they have a safe driving record.

“The process allows me to review their military driving records and determine if they qualify for one of the three categories of CDL, which are based on weight,” explained Angle, who has had 30 Soldiers particiapte in the program.

The DMV cites a variety of benefits to the Troops to Trucks program, including an easy transition from military to civilian life for active duty military members, and a “win win” situation for veteran’s looking for employment and the trucking industry’s shortage of qualified and licensed commercial truck drivers.

Spc. James Banks, of the 1173rd Transportation Company, 1030th Transportation Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group was the first Troops to Trucks participant at his local DMV in Onnancock, Va. “They said I was the guinea pig,” said Banks, who was able to earn a promotion when he acquired his CDL through Troops to Trucks. “It means a lot. I’m glad I did it. I was going to have to do it sooner or later for my job anyway, but doing it through Troops to Trucks was way easier.”

In the future, military members will be able to acquire their CDLs through third party testing sites at select military posts around Virginia, including at Fort Pickett. These remote sites will have the capability to train, test and credential applicants.