The National Ready Mixed Concrete Association is ramping up its lobbying efforts to move legislation that would provide driver-training funding for military
The National Ready Mixed Concrete Association is ramping up its lobbying efforts to move legislation that would provide driver-training funding for military veterans. Staff of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs are close to completing a legislative proposal that would extend accelerated Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) benefits to nontraditional educational programs, such as driver training.
Sponsored by Representatives Michael Michaud (D-ME) and Jeff Miller (R-FL), H.R. 717 would extend MGIB educational assistance payments to veterans enrolled in an accredited educational program that leads to employment as a driver of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). The bill would limit the total accelerated payments to $10,000 and allows the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to determine which industries qualify for inclusion in the program.
In early April, NRMCA members met with several Senate members to build support for an equivalent bill S. 2416 (the Veterans Employment and Training Act), which differs from the House version in that it limits eligibility to high-growth industries identified by the Department of Labor and restricts educational programs to two years (rather than imposing a maximum payout). In other words, the VET Act would expand eligibility for accelerated MGIB benefits to include 14 industry sectors identified by the Department of Labor as likely to add large numbers of new jobs in coming years, including transportation and construction. Senators Conrad Burns (R-MT) and Mark Pryor (D-AR) introduced the bill earlier this year.
This grassroots push by NRMCA and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs comes at a critical time when ready mixed producers are beginning to feel pinched by the shortage of qualified drivers. NRMCA estimates that the industry is experiencing a 10 percent driver shortage, with the potential idling of perhaps 7,000 of the industry’s 70,000 trucks on any given workday.
And, as the Department of Labor has indicated, the shortage is not confined to mixer trucks. According to a recently released report from the American Trucking Associations (ATA) in Alexandria, Va., the driver shortage in heavy-duty, long-haul trucking sits at about 20,000. That number is expected to skyrocket to 110,000 by 2014, ATA projects.
According to Kevin Voelte, NRMCA’s director of government relations, the standard MGIB benefits are paid as a monthly stipend capped at slightly more than $1,000 per month. Since standard driver training lasts about four to six weeks, this stipend is hardly appealing to many veterans, since training programs often cost between $4,000 and $6,000.
However, the accelerated MGIB program Û available to veterans seeking employment in high-tech industries since 2001 Û would make driver training more competitive, covering as much as 60 percent of a trainee’s costs as an up-front lump sum payment. The only way we can go after an attractive labor pool, which veterans definitely are, is to sweeten the deal for them to become mixer-truck drivers, says Voelte.
NRMCA encourages industry producers to alert their legislators regarding support of H.R. 717 and S. 2416. To find out how, go to the association’s Grassroots website at www.nrmca.org/grassroots, or contact Robert Sullivan or Kevin Voelte at 888/84-NRMCA.