Task Force Movement: Truckers connected and galvanized
The ArcBest/ABF booth welcomed veterans in one of the multiple exhibition wings. (Photo by Laura Edwards)

Task Force Movement: Truckers connected and galvanized

Each March, more than 58,000 attendees from all corners of the trucking industry meet at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville for the Mid-America Trucking Show, the largest of its kind in the world. Exhibitors showcase both the past (the American Truck Historical Society) and the future (alternative-fuel, carbon-negative truck stops) of the industry. A trucker can find everything they need in 2024, from specialty bedding, to trucking-oriented media (including Wreaths Across America Radio), to health and wellness products, to support and charitable organizations such as Truck Stop Ministries and Truckers Against Trafficking. 

ArcBest Corporation, a logistics company, estimates that 10% of the trucking industry is staffed by military veterans. Some veteran-founded businesses had exhibit booths, and a number of war-period and service-branch hats and shirts were worn by attendees. ArcBest and its subsidiary ABF Freight are participants in the Department of Defense’s (DoD) SkillBridge program, which connects civilian employers with soon-to-be-discharged servicemembers and spouses via training classes (such as for trucking licenses). SkillBridge is an important focus of the national Task Force Movement initiative to connect the military-connected community with jobs in understaffed sectors of the economy (such as trucking), which The American Legion has a steering-committee seat on. According to a March report, thanks to the efforts of the coalition of businesses, federal agencies, training institutions, labor unions and more, 750 transitioning servicemembers and veterans were credentialed and began trucking jobs in 2023. 

The two companies took out a large booth, offering veterans candy and branded freebies, a seating area and information on employment opportunities. Their display vehicle – one of dozens scattered through the show, both indoors and in parking lots – made their purpose clear: “Thank You For Your Service.”

Another large booth area belonged to FASTPORT, a national career-placement company that also works with TFM. Executive Director of Workforce Development & Government Programs Dave Harrison, who spoke at the credentialing summit at the 2023 American Legion national convention, said in Louisville that they were there to maintain a network of connectivity between employers, drivers, CDL schools, social media and more in the industry – “we believe in that connectivity.” One major objective was to talk to employers on how to engage and retain veteran drivers. Harrison added that setting them up for a future as operators is a “Holy Grail accomplishment: you’re making them a business owner.”

FASTPORT President Brad Bentley said the trucking industry has about 10-12% more veterans than they think, because not all actively self-identify as such. He has been to every Mid-America Trucking Show held since 1989. “This industry was always patriotic, veteran-friendly,” he continued. Another goal for FASTPORT at the show was to “make sure we keep (it) galvanized” so prospects aren’t lost to other fields like IT. Bentley concluded that the company’s presence in Louisville was a small, but important, part of connecting the military community to trucking.

And not just veterans. Mike Richie is chairman of the Kentucky committee of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a DoD office. His group was at the show to talk to trucking companies about hiring National Guard and reserve members. He listed some of that community’s virtues as employees: they are guaranteed to be drug-free; they receive training in leadership and other fields as they climb the ranks; and, hearkening back to the national-security component of TFM’s focus, they “understand that people’s lives are at stake.”