All branches of the military need to move materials, equipment and personnel from place to place. There is a wide range of driving opportunities in the military, and all of them offer an unparalleled combination of free training and hands-on experience. Learning to drive with the military also offers you the opportunity to get lifelong benefits that will help you transition into a military career after you serve.
In addition to pay, healthcare benefits, housing and meals allowances and other benefits, the military also offers ongoing educational opportunities. While you are in the military, you will attend numerous training events relating to your field which will better prepare you for civilian life. If you stay in the armed forces long enough, you will also qualify for education benefits when you get out, which can include a free college education on the GI Bill.
In the Army, a Motor Transport Operator is an enlisted job position for both active duty and reserve personnel. According to GoArmy.com, the United States Armed forces own and operate over 50,000 heavy trucks and transport vehicles, which include water/fuel tank trucks, semi-tractor trailers, troop transports, heavy equipment transports, and passenger buses. The job description of a Motor Transport Operator is very similar to a commercial truck driver, but with some added flavor. As with a truck driver, you have to safely drive the vehicle and make sure that your cargo is properly secured at all times. You also have to master proper navigation and communication skills and use technology appropriately.
However, military drivers may get to drive in more challenging road conditions than a commercial truck driver ever would. You may get some experience carrying very hazardous cargo, and you will also need to know how to use a weapon if it’s a part of your vehicle. You will have to be able to maintain your vehicle well enough to make minor repairs if it breaks down in the field, and be able to spot potential problems before you head out. You may also need to ship your vehicle by air, rail, or ship.
To train for this job, you will first have to train for the Army with 10 weeks of basic training and seven weeks of specialized driving training. The Army’s driver training program includes more than 200 hours of behind-the-wheel time on a range of different vehicles. Once you become proficient at military driving, you may have the opportunity to drive in or organize convoys, receive orders, train others, or even drive highly specialized vehicles like the Heavy Equipment Transporter, which carries tanks, or the Palletized Load System, which carries ammunition and other supplies over all kinds of terrain to resupply troops.
If you choose to stay with the Army, you might work as a Transportation Management Coordinator. This job function involves coordinating large movements of material and personnel, scheduling, and deciding on the best way to get things and people where they need to be on time.
In some states, you may be able to apply for a waiver of the skills test portion of the CDL exam. In Pennsylvania, for example, if you have a valid military CDL and have driven commercial Class-A type vehicles within the past two years, then you may be able to get your CDL without taking the skills test. You will still have to take the knowledge (written) test in order to get your CDL permit, but then you can apply for a skills test waiver. You must show proof at the DMV of the kind of vehicles your military CDL authorizes you to drive. If the license isn’t specific, then you can bring in your training record. If the state approves, you will get a waiver letter and will be eligible for a civilian CDL. You will still have to take all the knowledge tests for any special endorsements you had, and if there are any additional endorsements you want to add on (like tanker or doubles/triples) you will have to take all the applicable tests.
If, after the military, you decide you don’t want to drive truck anymore and would like to go back to school for something completely different, like nursing or information technology, you may be able to use GI Bill benefits to pay for your reeducation.