Navy veteran Mark Buckley served aboard the USS Decatur guided missile destroyer and on the USS Coral aircraft carrier, before becoming a driver with USA Truck Capacity Solutions.
Buckley is one of many USAT drivers who came through the Arkansas-based trucking company’s Military Transition Apprenticeship Training Program, in cooperation with the U.S. Veterans Administration and the Department of Labor, which enables eligible veterans to receive Class A CDL training with no upfront costs.
“It was an easy transition because I already had the mindset. In the Navy, I was given a job and so much time to get it done,” said Buckley, who's been with USAT since 2007 and rolled up more than a million safe driving miles. “As a driver, you get orders, whether it's a pick-up or delivery, and what time you've got to be there, and it's our job to manage our time and resources. In the transportation industry, situations change all the time whether it be weather or traffic. There many issues we have to overcome to do what we need to do.”
During his eight years at sea, Buckley worked as an interior communications electrician, responsible for operation and maintenance of communications, alarms, warning systems, ship controls, entertainment, navigation, flight deck video and control systems, and plotting equipment. It's a highly technical position that requires manual dexterity with tools, equipment and machines, organizational skills, resourcefulness and the ability to solve challenges alone and as part of a team. Buckley found that it was good preparation for being a professional truck driver.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that than a quarter of USA Truck’s drivers are former military personnel, when you consider that USA Truck Capacity Solutions, as it’s known now, was started in 1983 by Robert Powell, a former Navy aviator. Started as Crawford Produce, with fewer than 10 trucks, today the company has more than 1,600 driving team members.
The truckload fleet features the iconic U.S. Air Force star and bars insignia on its trucks’ doors and provides customized truckload, dedicated contract carriage, intermodal and third-party logistics freight management services throughout North America.
“When veterans enter into the civilian workforce, they look for opportunities like they had in the military, where there was a rally point with a community of like-minded individuals. We want USA Truck to be a rally point,” said Steve Brantley, USAT director of talent acquisition.
In 2017, USAT was recognized among the Most Valuable Employers for Military by RecruitMilitary, which identifies top civilian employers for military-experienced job seekers.
“We love veterans from a recruiting standpoint, because they're resourceful and adapt well to facing challenges and overcoming obstacles,” Brantley said.
Military truck ambassadors
Mark Buckley is one of four USAT veteran drivers awarded custom Kenworth T680 tractors, each military-themed to represent their respective branch of service. The tractors feature custom camo wraps and the slogan “Serve, Unite, Advance.” Buckley received his at a ceremony in New York's Times Square, where USAT is publicly traded on NASDAQ.
The trucks and drivers serve as goodwill ambassadors for USA Truck, participating in events such as Wreaths Across America delivering holiday wreaths to veterans’ cemeteries across the country and The Wall that Heals, transporting a three-quarter scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to one of its exhibit destinations.
“It's a great honor,” Buckley said. “I'm very pro-military and pro-USA, and I couldn't ask for a better company to work for.”
The other drivers are Glen Nelson (Air Force), Wayne Anderson (Army) and James Macy (Marines).
The Kenworth T680 isn’t just used for these special trucks; this model makes up more than half of the USAT fleet. Since early 2016, the USA Truck division has acquired 625 T680s with 76-inch sleepers through MHC Kenworth - Van Buren.
The latest order of Kenworth T680s marked USAT's first with an automated transmission.
"The automated transmissions are particularly accommodating for drivers coming out of the military who are used to operating simplified Class-B level equipment,” said Nick Wakefield, director of driver recruiting. But it’s appealing to a lot of newer drivers as well.
“You really restrict yourself today if you don't have automated transmissions in your fleet, because many of the new drivers are certified only for those transmissions,” said Vice President of Maintenance Jeff Harris. “Out of the gate, a lot of drivers claim they don't like automated transmissions, but after they’ve been driving an automated transmission for a short while, they love it.”
The trucks also have air-disc brakes, Bendix Wingman Fusion collision mitigation with adaptive cruise control, and Bendix BlindSpotter.
Buckley's pretty happy with his T680. "In the Navy, you rely on specialty equipment that enables you to do your assignment. The T680 is a vital part of my job as a truckload carrier," he said. "It’s what every driver wants – a dependable truck that allows you to get more miles, have better days on the road and make more customers happy.”