The U.S. is facing an unprecedented shortage of commercial airline pilots and truck drivers. And it will only get worse. However, there is a new flight training funding program and some changes in the trucking industry that are aimed to help reduce the shortages in these two transportation areas.

Commercial Airline Pilots

Right now the U.S. is short 18,000 commercial airline pilots. One of the issues that prevents veterans from completing a commercial aviation pilot training program is the cost of training flights. While the Post 9/11 GI Bill covers the tuition and fees for many students, it does not cover flight costs.

To help alleviate this funding issue, the FAA awarded the University of North Dakota $2.5 million to develop a new flight training program for veterans enrolled in UND’s four-year Part 141 flight training course. Coined the Vets 2 Wings or V2W for short, it is meant to complement the GI Bill funding by helping fill in the gaps in funding.

One requirement of the program is that veterans must already have their private pilots license to be eligible for the additional funding. However at the beginning of 2022, UND received a $300,000 scholarship from the Ray Foundation. That money was awarded to 25 students to work on getting their private pilot’s license so that they can then enroll in the Part 141 program.

Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)

The trucking industry is another transportation area that is facing extreme shortages of “road pilots”. The shortage number in 2021 was estimated at 80,000 drivers and that number will continue to grow until it doubles by 2030 without intervention.

And while veterans can use their Post 9/11 GI Bill to fund their CDL training, there is a shortage of qualified schools that can teach the course. This is due in part to a Department of Veteran Affairs law that prohibits accredited schools from establishing new secondary satellite campuses for two years from their initial accreditation.

While the law was intended to curb veterans from being scammed by schools setting up fraudulent secondary schools, it is impacting on the number of legitimate schools that can train CDL drivers. Proposed legislation (if passed) would exempt trucking schools from the law. Secondary schools would be required to submit yearly reports to ensure the curriculum is the same as their primary school and that it does not exploit veteran students.

And the White House is helping fill the shortage too. In April, they implemented “Task Force Movement: Life-Cycle Pathways for Veterans and Military into Trucking”. This task force is a partnership between the American Trucking Association (ATA) and veteran service organizations that work together to develop an action plan on how to recruit veterans into trucking positions. So far it has already produced results by recruiting qualified veterans and troops leaving the military into vacant truck driving positions.

If either of these transportation careers appeal to you, more information is available. More information on UND’s Commercial Aviation Program can be found on their website. For more CDL information, this Trucking Action Plan fact sheet may help.

Due to the soft skills learned while serving, and in certain cases even hard skills, veterans are well suited to work in these two transportation areas. With 200,000 leaving military service each year, there is a plethora of talent that could be trained to fill these positions and ease the burden on the industries.

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Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.