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Fastport’s Military Veteran-Hiring Effort Expands to Retention

October 18, 2015

By Tom Berg

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Service men and women who are transitioning to civilian life attending a "hiring fair" at Fort Drum, New York, sponsored by Fastport. Photo: Fastport
Service men and women who are transitioning to civilian life attending a "hiring fair" at Fort Drum, New York, sponsored by Fastport. Photo: Fastport

PHILADELPHIA -- Fastport Inc., a job placement service active in an industry effort to hire military veterans for driver positions, has embarked on a retention campaign, says Jim Ray, a co-founder and member of an old-line trucking family.

“The next big thing,” he told reporters at a press conference, “is that once they’re hired, to make sure they stay in the industry.” He wants fleets to commit to training and leadership aimed at drivers and other employees so they don’t depart to other industries.

Fastport now has 12 top fleets that participate in its veteran-hiring work, and Ray wants 50 more trucking companies to be part of the retention effort.

Hiring veterans remains a top goal because of the current driver shortage, and Fastport is a member of several groups dedicated to that, he said. Members of the military are hard to reach because many are stationed overseas and even those stationed in the U.S. are subject to frequent transfers.

A 2012 federal law mandates that all personnel about to leave the military be given transitional training to help them step back into civilian life, Ray said. Fastport has met with Pentagon brass who wanted to know more about the trucking industry and how it can absorb former service members in gainful employment.

Fastport has attended dozens of job fairs aimed at military members across the country, and recently went to one in Germany. There, many soldiers were “intrigued” by the idea of working as drivers after they leave the military, he said. Fastport was able to pre-qualify some of them for employment and, using its contacts with trucking companies, put them in immediate touch with recruiters.

Ray said Fastport has partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program to create a Trucking Track Mentoring Program that maintains contact with vets after they are hired. Five thousands such contacts have been made through participating trucking companies, and Fastport has processed 15,000 on-line “quick” applications for employment.

The American Trucking Associations and the Truckload Carriers Association together have pledged to hire 150,000 veterans for trucking jobs over a two-year period. And the Owner Operator-Independent Drivers Association "provided great educational material for those veterans that want to someday become entrepreneurs."

As part of its hiring program, Fastport is building a data base of available jobs, qualifying applicants before they apply, then putting them in direct touch with prospective employers. The effort is complicated because so many trucking firms are small and medium-size fleets that are not represented by any recognized organizations.

Ray said he did not stay in the Chicago-area trucking company founded in 1939 by his grandfather "because I couldn’t grow it” due to the on-going driver shortage. So he helped found Fastport and, remembering that the majority of the family company’s drivers at one point were Vietnam veterans, decided to make recruiting former military people a big part of the process.

Ray urged reporters “to take a pledge to not write any more stories about the driver shortage, but instead write about what’s being done about it. The shortage is really a big opportunity for veterans to find work,” he said.

More information about his company and trucking industry recruiting efforts is available at Fastport.com.

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