WJ Editorial
WJ Editorial

Veterans Power The Inland Waterways

Along with other transportation-related industries, ours is in the midst of an ongoing labor shortage. All modes—trucking, railroads and barges—have their challenges and their non-traditional work schedules. We are still faced with the possibility of a rail strike revolving around issues of stress, working conditions and time off. Trucking has tried for years to attract new drivers. 

Our industry is more closely intertwined with the military services than some others. Our vessels are regulated by the Coast Guard, and our locks, dams and inland waterways are maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

The current low-water situation on the Mississippi River and other inland waterways is showcasing the close cooperation between our industry and these two branches. 

Compared to trucking and railroads, the barge industry has a lot of advantages. Not only does it offer pathways to fulfilling and well-paying careers on the rivers that do not necessarily require a college degree, but its work schedules are more stable and predictable than those of the other two modes. 

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Veterans may be found anywhere in the industry, at any level—as deckhands on towboats, stewards and chefs on cruise vessels, managing fuels as tankermen, keeping our waterways open on dredging vessels and as C-suite executives of both blue- and brown-water companies. Veterans serve as port captains, port directors, maritime attorneys, brokers and safety consultants.

This Veterans Day, it’s good to reflect on the close connections between our industry and the military services. Our industry has benefitted from waves of recruitment from the services, through programs like the Military to Maritime program sponsored by America’s Maritime Partnership. As labor and recruitment issues again claim the attention of inland waterways leaders, it will remain important to keep those recruiting pipelines from the services to the inland waterways open.