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.
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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