A Longtime Trucker Is Helping Veterans Become the New Generation of Drivers

(U.S. Air National Guard/Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)

MJ Rader first started driving a truck in 1986 and still drives today. In recent years, he's expanded in an effort to pass his knowledge and experience to more and more people.

In May 2021, he launched CDLVet.com to get more veterans into the trucking industry for a pretty simple reason: He thinks they are the best possible candidates. That's why he started the website, which he develops on his own time, with his own money.

"Without any doubt in my mind, I knew military veterans were the best recruits," Rader tells Military.com. "They have so many transferable skill sets. It takes a lot to be a truck driver, a lot of self-discipline. Veterans have that mission mindset, the ability to accomplish tasks and respect for authority. They have so many things that transfer over to a really high-caliber truck driver."

Rader built CDLVet from the ground up because he wanted to continue his career in trucking and believed he had more to offer the industry. He believes the website is just one step in getting the best possible people to fill its ranks.

Trucking is one of the most in-demand career fields of the post-COVID era. In 2021, the median income of a truck driver was more than $48,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many trucking companies are offering $50,000 to $60,000 to get new drivers in seats because of a national shortage of 1.9 million industry workers.

At CDLVet.com, interested veterans and military spouses can learn more about the industry, along with the myths that pervade the industry and its reputation. Military-trained drivers can also learn what skills and certifications can transfer over from their military career. There are also instructional blogs about how and why using the GI Bill to learn to be a trucker is a valuable use of the benefit.

Trucking companies advertise with CDLVet to get space on the website, videos, ads and podcast time. The result is a comprehensive, state-by-state listing of CDL training programs and job openings around the country. It also has an exhaustive list of trucking companies and internal transportation divisions that are in need of good drivers. The list is very, very long -- a good case for why trucking is a viable career path.

There is even a form veterans and spouses can fill out to get CDLVet to help them find an opportunity and guide them on how to make the most of it. Rader says CDLVet's real game-changer for those interested in a trucking career is its podcast, a show he's still producing.

Episodes of the CDLVet Podcast are available now, but the coming episodes will add up to a complete explainer on all things trucking. You may want to be a truck driver, but you may not know what type of trailer you want to pull. You will learn terms like "step deck," "drive in" and "container." Interested veterans can also learn the advantages to driving locally and regionally.

MJ Rader founded CDLVet after a long career in trucking. (Courtesy of MJ Rader)

Simply put, there is a lot to learn for someone coming into the industry for the first time, but CDLVet wants to provide a platform for veterans to learn its ins and outs. Rader says the idea is that veterans will get to know what they want to drive and what companies they want to work for.

"​​The idea is for a 'test drive' to get the perfect match," Rader says. "They [veterans] need to know and have an understanding of as many details as possible. They will be able to gather education and information and thus be able to make an informed decision about their CDL career. This works for the trucking companies, CDL schools and, most importantly, for the veterans, spouses and transitioning servicemen and women."

For more information about the trucking industry and how transitioning veterans can get started, visit CDLVet.com and its podcast page.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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