Truck Troops

When National Guardsmen in Indiana salute their officers goodbye, they will not just be university graduates looking for a job. They’ll be truck drivers.

As students in a special program at Vincennes University in Vincennes, Ind., these soon-to-be drivers will learn everything they can about transportation and logistics along with hands-on experience to be able to venture onto the road in a big rig. They will also be guardsmen and women.

In an attempt to find and train more qualified drivers, Transport America teamed up with the Indiana National Guard and VU for the Driver Training Apprenticeship Program. Students are recruited by the National Guard with the intention that they’ll work for Transport America.
“There are not enough truck drivers to haul all of the things the Army needs,” says Steve Sichterman, director of human resources for Transport America, “so we are trying to develop a partnership with good quality people.”

Not only will the National Guard help recruit quality drivers for themselves and Transport America, the students in this program at VU will earn an associates degree in transportation logistics. They will enter the university to start a six-week course and finish classes online over the next two years while obtaining practical experience with Transport America.

“This program will cover all realms of transportation training for new drivers to the industry,” Sichterman says. “Students in the program are not only learning the basics of how to back up a trailer, but they are also being educated on transportation and logistics.
“They will give their one weekend a month and two weeks a year for the National Guard and then work [full time] for us,” Sichterman says.

The guardsmen have the option of staying at Transport America after they earn their degree or using their degree as a start on another career path. According to Sichterman, a degree in Transportation Logistics can be used for other careers such as truck operations, truckload carrying, fleet management or customer management.

“For some people driving is a life-long ambition, for others it is just a step,” Sichterman says.

When the program was established in January, Indiana was the only state that had implemented it.

“We hope to develop the same partnership across the country,” Sichterman says.

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