In opening remarks Monday before the 105th annual meeting of the National Industrial Transportation League in Anaheim, Calif., President Bruce Carlton made an eloquent Veterans' Day statement about the respect people in the military and veterans deserve for upholding the American way of life and singled out the freight rail industry for hiring veterans.
Less than a week removed from a bitter presidential election, Carlton noted that citizens were able to freely side with the political party of their choice because of the sacrifice of men and women in the U.S. military.
As the nation watches and waits to see whether the federal government can quickly get its act together to deal with the national debt before deep, automatic spending cuts kick in, Carlton reminded the audience "to pause for one moment to think about our national debt - of gratitude" to American's veterans.
"We can never repay those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. But we an make a difference. We can hire veterans when they return from their military service," Calton said.
Freight railroads are leading the way in that effort and "showing all of us an extraordinary commitment to repaying that debt of gratitude," he said.
The industry is doing "far more than its share in hiring veterans and getting them on their way to new careers," he added.
The railroad industry is on track to hire at least 5,000 military veterans this year, according to the American Association of Railroads. In reality, it's not just mainline freight railroads, but Amtrak and commuter railroads, as well as shortline freight railroads that have collectively committed to the hiring goal. New hires with military experience represent almost a third of the 15,000 jobs rail carriers expect to fill in 2012.
Answering the call of the White House, railroads are actively recruiting veterans through job fairs and Websites where rail jobs are posted, including the U.S. Defense and Transportation departments.
About a quarter of railroad employees are current or former members of the military. One of them, former Coast Guard officer and reservist John Lanigan, recently announced his retirement from BNSF Railway, where he is chief marketing officer.
Railroads are expanding capacity and services to meet transportation demand and need more locomotive engineers, brakemen, signalmen, dispatchers, maintenance workers and others to operate and maintain their networks. Almost a quarter of the industry's employees will be eligible to retire by the year 2015.
Veterans are seen as ideal candidates because of their experience working in difficult outdoor environments, as well as their dedication, leadership and technical skills, AAR says.
Shuster a shoo-in.
Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., appears set to become the new chairman of the House Transportatin and Infrastructure Committee.
Shuster, chairman of the T&I Committee's railroads, pipelines and hazardous materials subcommittee, has announced his candidacy for the top post.
Meanwhile, the Republican Caucus has term limits for committee chairmanships, meaning that Rep. John Mica of Florida will not retain his post. - Eric Kulisch