There are good reasons young people don’t consider a career in trucking

As the trucking industry struggles to attract new talent, the obvious demographic to target is youth. But for many reasons, young folks today are rarely drawn to the idea of a career behind the wheel.

And I think there are some pretty obvious reasons for this, which have yet to be resolved. Let’s start with the workplace expectations. Show me an 18-year-old who wants to begin their foray into the workplace with an expectation of working 14-hour days, some of that time unpaid.

Trucking companies that hope to attract today’s youth as drivers will need to get creative in how they structure the workday. Eight hour driving shifts, for starters. Better routing. Less wait time. More switches, so young drivers – who understand and appreciate work-life balance better than previous generations – can work a normal workday and still support themselves.

How they’re paid should also be updated. Yes, they should be paid for all their time. But they should also have predictable pay and be able to figure out exactly how they were paid without referring back to the employment handbook. I believe the most attractive option for young people would be hourly pay – they’re paid for all their time from when they clock in until when they finish their post-trip.

Freightliner Inspiration Truck
Technology should be promoted to the next generation of truckers. (Photo: DTNA)

One thing we have going for us when it comes to attracting young employees is the technology that’s in the truck. But we don’t do enough to promote it. Spec’ those trucks up with all the tech you can and young drivers will come. They will embrace ‘cool’ technologies like adaptive cruise control, driver coaching apps, pre-trip assistants, etc. Not to mention the zero-emission trucks that are coming in the not-too-distant future.

Individuals who are succeeding in the trucking industry should be encouraged to embrace social media. Sure, every brand has a social media account these days but the users that get the most engagement are individuals who are working in the industry.

Folks like Matt Marchand, who shares his daily routines through his hugely popular @myworldtaw Twitter account, have built large followings, including many people from outside the industry. There is a general fascination out there about the work professional drivers do and what their job entails. Social media influencers are one of the most effective means of getting to interested youth.

Young people today also want and expect the opportunity for career advancement. Too often, office jobs are filled with people with no trucking experience at all, because truckers are too valuable to take out of the truck.

We shouldn’t underestimate the value experienced drivers can bring to these and other positions, and we shouldn’t assume a driver wants to remain a driver until the day they retire. Companies that can offer a real opportunity for advancement will be more successful at attracting and keeping young employees. They should be able to walk through the terminal and see examples of drivers-turned-managers or drivers-turned-executives within the company’s ranks.

By now, whether or not you agree with the above, you’re already blaming the insurance companies. Yes, getting young drivers insured can be tricky. But it’s not impossible. Several insurers represented on a recent Truckload Carriers Association panel discussion on this topic said it’s not age that precludes a young driver from coverage, it’s lack of experience.

This is where the real investment in attracting young employees must come in. Fleets have to be creative and resourceful in how they get new hires that experience. More mentorships. Well developed finishing programs. Training, training, training. These programs should be developed in partnership with your insurer. If you can convince them these young drivers aren’t being turned loose simply because they have a commercial licence, then you may well be able to get that ever-important insurance piece figured out.

Young people are an important demographic to attract if the trucking industry hopes to overcome the driver shortage. It won’t be easy to reconnect with this group, but it is possible. But first, we need to honestly address some of the reasons why young people aren’t drawn to trucking today.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • This has been, and continues to be a major concern, as the average age of drivers continues to rise. We definitely need to be able to attract youth to the trucking industry and be creative in doing so. Time is of the essence!

    • I and others who live and work with disabled homeless vets and truck drivers and P SWs have put a lot of effort into telling young people and their families that truck drivers are often badly affected by sickness and injuries
      I have been on radio stations right across Canada an

  • Hello,

    I appreciate you addressing this issue, but as an owner of a long haul trucking company, who do you suggest will pay for these things you’re suggesting (hourly wages, shorter work shifts, technology)? Long haul companies are lucky if they make a 5% margin; most other types of businesses try to operate at a 20% margin. So there is unfortunately no room to absorb these additional costs until customers recognize the driver shortage issue and are willing to increase their rates to help solve the dilemma.

  • Very well said. We need to let these young folks know that driving a truck today involves lot more technology as compared to trucks 50 odd years ago.
    Most people prefer to drive Uber than be as cab driver. Similarly, we need to inform young people that being a truck driver today is akin to being a Uber truck driver.

  • Watch the HBO episode “Trucks Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” if you want another view of why trucking companies have trouble attracting young people. It is a worthwhile 24 minutes. Sorry folks, this may not fit very well with your public image campaign.
    Government should solve this by recognizing the problems in the trucking industry workplaces. Not subsidizing the hiring of new or foreign workers.

  • Great piece James! We have been talking about this for years on Trucker Radio. Maybe it’s time for the next hire to be a creative young marketing and promotion person in the front office. Trucking is not noted for it’s out-of-the-box thinking and creativity. Fleet leaders can’t solve this problem at seminars and conferences. Preaching to choir is over. The pews are empty. Hell, I wouldn’t work 14 hours a day…hours of it unpaid…unless I chose to do it. That ship has sailed.

    • no promotion or marketing person will counter the sight of seeing homeless disabled truck drivers being forced by the fire marshall out of a fire hazard shelter after ont hydro turned the power off with a $8000 bill owed that need upgraded hydro wiring after the ont gov told these disable people to make their own arrangements blyth ont

  • Are the insurance companies sponsoring this colum? Why is everyone so blind? The insurance companies charge a primium for an inexperienced driver (ages 16 to 90) plus there is a premim for drivers under 25. How can trucking companies afford these extra premiums? Oh yeah, more training (now you have to insure the new driver AND the trainer but you can’t hire him until he turns 25! Of course the insurance companies and the trainers want more training!). Who waits until they are 25 years old to learn a trade and know when you are finally allowed to drive at 28 for a nominal or sometimes low wage? Most people are in thier carreer and earning a nominal wage BEFORE the age of 25. Alot of the truckers I’ve met in my 43 years of driving proffesionally (I obtained my class 1 at 19 years old) only obtained thier Class 1 license because of a previous workplace injury and they thought driving truck was an easy job and WCB would now pay for their training. It is cost prohibitive for new drivers and to companies that hire these drivers unless training and insurance is subsidised by someone. And a huge part of those costs go directly to the insurance companies. The only way to beat those costs is to not list all your drivers to the insurance companies, then where are we? Get caught, pay a small fine and change insurance companies and do it again, and again. I definately agree with paying drivers higher wages, overtime and especially waiting time. But me also as a consumer would prefer to buy something fom online where I don’t have to pay shipping. Are we all hipocrits?

  • I am 32 and I drive for a company. And after multiple conversations with other drivers I am not the only one that believes trucking is just a job, not a career. Don’t hear what I am not saying, once upon a time it was a career. But in todays day and age between inflation, no home time, and the fact that they can replace drivers with new drivers faster than McDonald’s replaces their cashiers, a lot of us realize that this is not a stress that is worth dealing with until we can retire. IF we can even retire. Because contrary to popular belief, trucking won’t make a driver rich, it won’t make them wealthy, it won’t even make them “upper middle class”. So as the industry becomes more micromanaged and the pay doesn’t change, it gets to a point where a new driver or even someone who considered driving but didn’t says well, I can make $60k anywhere else. And it is true. Thats an average salary that can be made working outside of the trucking industry. I think what hurts the trucking industry is the exaggerated salaries that owner ops and company drivers say they make. I tell people all the time not to believe the hype. Because when you get into trucking and your expecting to make $80k-100k and you only make $50k-$60k why stay? Maybe if companies and other truckers were honest the industry could really improve. But I am guilty
    of take the money and run. Once I save for what I need I am putting my cdl down. There is nothing appealing about this industry unfortunately. From the pay, to the long hours, to no parking. Its not worth it just to keep someone else rich.