Focus on image to attract a new generation of trucking employees

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I like shiny things. Especially if they rumble to life, pass air like grandpa going up the stairs, and the dispatcher thinks they drive like a supersonic jet.

Yeah. Truck that!

I’m not alone in this. Many will agree there is something mesmerizing about the sight of a rig, be it rolling hard or in a yard full of truck show pretties. One of my little grandsons could never sit still — until he sat on a curb watching a parade of shiny trucks.

These observations are nothing new, right? Why am I telling you something that is just common knowledge? There is a long history of little kids drooling over the sight of big trucks.

Have you paid attention lately, though? I think it’s time to revisit this.

We have a recruitment problem in our industry. Actually, we primarily have a retention problem, but let’s stick with recruitment for today.

There’s a lot of talk about how to attract the younger crowd to trucking. Here’s a fun fact: All my career I have been one of the younger drivers. A few years ago, I thought I was finally getting to be one of the older ones. Not so fast! I was still not even the average age.

Today at 55, with 35 years behind me, I am still younger than the average driver at my company.

That’s a problem. I’m sure that’s not news, either.

So, what do we do?

There were a couple of recent years when we couldn’t get together due to the pandemic. Now we can, so use this time to get out and show people what we have for them.

Child playing with truck
Expose kids to trucking early, showing off the industry’s tech and equipment. (Photo: iStock)

Truck shows

I have seen a few new shows pop up or become more popular recently. Some are tied to charities, and some are the regular show’n’shine.

Think about sending your drivers and your trucks everywhere they can go to showcase what you have to offer. Show the public your rigs, with all their high-tech crash avoidance tech and driver comforts. Let your drivers be your ambassadors and talk about the benefits they get from driving a truck.

Get your drivers into truck driving competitions and encourage families and the general public to come out and watch.

As my oldest son used to say to me, “Dad, it’s not rocket appliances”. Even when you’re mixing metaphors, if you are cute, you can get away with it.

When my second son was starting his house exteriors company, I hammered the point home to look good, act professional, and do a better job than anyone else.

Today he runs a large company in Ottawa and has never advertised for business. I asked him how he accomplished this. He told me that many people saw his trucks at job sites, watched them work, and then called him to do work for them. His fleet of pickups and trailers stand out among the others and their whole image is professional.

Image sells

We are attracted to shiny and gleaming things. Some of us like shiny chrome. Some like the no-chrome look. Many today like the high-tech gadgets and cutting-edge technologies we have in our trucks.

Use that for your advertising. Some already do that by decaling the truck as near-zero emission models or revealing that their driver has umpteen safety awards.

I’ll bet the kids these days know how to get a hold of a company without having big flashing desperate signs declaring that you need drivers. If someone likes your rig and is intrigued by seeing one roll down the road, they won’t need a 1-800 number on the back. In fact, if they can’t figure out how to call, maybe you don’t want them. Use drivers as your PR department, not rent-a-models who don’t know a fifth wheel from a steering wheel.

Visit schools

Get out to schools and show them your technology. I love all the old-school restored trucks and pavement princesses that roll across the tarmac and look pretty at a show, but let’s not forget what attracts your target audience.

Show them how you are essential — like doctors and nurses. Explain to them that a truck doesn’t know your gender. If you are a numbers person, you can go far in a trucking company. If you’re a good chess player, you’ll probably be a good fleet manager. Is safety a passion? We have many spots for you. Environmentalist? Got that covered as well.

We have spots for all types of people in our industry. Our offices are full of people who never thought trucking was an industry to get into and now can’t see themselves doing anything else.  

We don’t need a specific “type” behind the wheel or driving a desk. We need to find the shiny thing that unlocks each person’s passion.

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David Henry is a longhaul driver, Bell Let's Talk representative and creator/cohost of the Crazy Canuck Truckin podcast. His passion is mental health and presenting a better image for trucking to the public.

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  • In ont we are seeing young people with truck permits become P SWs or go back to school for health care jobs . Too many truck drivers are being turned away from homeless shelters in ont when sick
    These people end up going g to hospital often by ambulance if they do not expire living on the street.