Four years ago, in an effort to increase its pool of drivers, ABF Freight decided to look to individuals who would bring a high-caliber character to the industry – our country’s veterans.
“It’s not hard for these individuals to be on time, or show up to work ready and prepared. These are characteristics that are ingrained in every soldier. These characteristics are the backbone of how anything gets done in the military world,” explains Mike Leverton, ABF Freight’s driver development instructor and a veteran of the U.S. Army.
The program originated with ABF and the Teamsters as a part of the Teamsters Military Assistance Program beginning in 2015 at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. It was created to find new drivers, but also to find people who are looking for a good life and a great job once their military career ends.
The program is six weeks long and starts around 90 days before a service member separates from active duty service. The main focus is teaching recruits to operate a tractor-trailer safely and competently. They learn shifting, backing, and driving in city and highway conditions. The program attempts to cover as much as the instructors can to assist these men and women to be successful as soon as they arrive at their service center.
“We help provide a bridge from one career to the next,” Leverton says. “They start and finish the program while they are still on active duty. The day they leave military service they have a job waiting for them with ABF Freight. Soldiers coming out of the ABF TMAP program are all eligible for no-cost health benefits after 90 days of employment. Essentially, they are receiving the same benefits as they would as a member of the Armed Forces.”
Since 2015, the program has graduated more than 350 students, including former Specialist and current ABF employee Frederick Curtis, a city driver out of ABF’s Chester, Pennsylvania, service center.
“[This program] has made my decision to get out an easy one,” Curtis says. “I started about two weeks after leaving the military, and right off the bat I was making more money. I had a mentor who helped further train me and help me get settled in the area of my new service center. It was so much easier than I thought getting out was going to be.”
And there was no gap in terms of when his income ended with the military and began with ABF. Curtis calls his choice “the best decision I could have made.”
“Plus all the health benefits and retirement that I don’t pay for, that is huge for those of us getting out,” he adds. “You’re guaranteed a job and you’re guaranteed to have benefits.”
And, for some graduates, sometimes you return to where you started. Leverton graduated from the ABF TMAP program before he left active duty. Three years ago, he returned as an instructor.
“ABF and the Teamsters have given me the opportunity to come back to the program and pass on the knowledge that I have gained,” says Leverton, adding, “We are not only providing soldiers with a great opportunity, but also ABF benefits by gaining a trustworthy employee, an employee who knows how to show up on time, an employee that is a self-starter. In turn, the Teamsters Union gets new members who are accustomed to being a part of a fraternity, someone who is used to being a part of something more.”