How to Attract Gen Y to Trucking

John G Smith

Journalist David D’Orazio can see himself behind the wheel of a big rig one day.

Editor’s Note: This past summer, a bright and good-looking 25-year-old university student approached Today’s Trucking editor Peter Carter about doing his summer internship with the magazine. He loved cars, engines, and all things driving. So the only logical question was, what would it take to get him to want a career as a professional commercial driver? His answer: 

As a mid-20s, soon-to-be-graduated university student, one of the things I’d like to do before heading into the working world is to see as much of this great country—and the rest of the continent—as possible. Trucking is one of the few jobs where that is possible, as many of you know.

During my time as Today’s Trucking’s editorial intern, I gained a new appreciation and respect for all the ridiculously hardworking folks in this line of work. Without all of you, I wouldn’t have shoes on my feet, or the Playstation I’ll probably be on at some point today, or the pint of beer I’d like to enjoy later in the evening. Point is, most people don’t know that a majority of their lifestyle is made possible by trucking. I consider myself one of the fortunate ones that do.

Know this: I am a driver, through and through. I still get excited banging into second gear coming out of a corner on my street at utterly pedestrian speeds.  Having piloted over 75 cars since getting my license, I refuse to drive anything other than a good-ole stick shift. I wanted to be a racecar driver when I was a kid, for cryin’ out loud. Driving is in my blood.

So would I give trucking a shot? Sure would, if a few conditions were met.

For starters, it would have to be financially worth it (granted, as a future journalist that probably wouldn’t be too difficult). If I were driving a truck, I wouldn’t want any per-mile pay scale deals. I want to either have a salary or per-hour wages (stacked vacation pay, of course). Obviously that’s not the case for the majority of drivers. Driving 100,000+ miles a year to support financial obligations can’t be easy—but as someone who values the love of work over an extra few thousand bucks a year, I could deal. As long as there’s a roof over my head and food on my table, an average salary works for me.

I would also want a guarantee that I wouldn’t be away from home or my future wife and (maybe) kids for more than a day at a time—ha-ha.

I totally would want a badass truck to drive, too, which makes owning-operating attractive. But then I don’t know how to fix most of a truck, and my eyes-wide, “hoo-boy” reaction to the fuel bill would put me off fairly quickly (unless someone else was footing it!). I have no doubt that I could love my truck enough to do it, but I’d have to pretty much become a mechanic first. If I had the mechanical acumen required to service my own truck, like many of you do, I might already be contemplating a switch.

The bottom line is that in order for young people to get interested in a driving career without growing up around trucks, trucks are going to have to get easier to own.

I really do want to try driving a full big rig some day, since the biggest thing I’ve driven was a cemetery’s class 6 International flatbed with a 20-foot trailer on the back. If mastering the art of reversing that rig was satisfying, I can only imagine how good it must feel to skillfully thread a 160-ton needle in a yard full of obstacles. Well, before the novelty is lost in routine, that is.

More importantly, the love of trucking is something developed from an age younger than mine. That is often the biggest factor in deciding to be a driver. Trucking, I’m grateful on a daily basis for everything you do, and I really would give it a shot provided certain conditions were met. I think it would be fun.

John G Smith

John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, Inside Logistics, Solid Waste & Recycling, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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