What are you going to do with this perfect opportunity?

This year has been one of the most difficult in history for businesses of any type to navigate. Trucking saw freight vanish almost overnight in March, as global economies were shut down in an effort to contain the Covid-19 virus.

But as the economy reopened, trucking was suddenly thrust into the spotlight – in a favorable way – as the important role our industry plays in stocking store shelves of everyday essential items such as toilet paper and medication was highlighted by media and politicians, alike. For the first time in several generations, truckers were seen as everyday heroes working on the front lines to keep our economy moving and ensuring essential supplies were available when needed.

Truckers were given free meals, personal protective equipment, and in general, greater gratitude for their work. While such reports were initially anecdotal, there are now some stats that support the idea that the trucking industry is being seen in a refreshing new light.

David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data, has been working with Trucking HR Canada on a number of projects, and during the recent Western Women With Drive event hosted by Trucking HR and the Alberta Motor Transport Association, he shared some interesting statistics. A recent post-pandemic survey of Canadians found only 5% had a negative view of the trucking industry, while 54% viewed it positively and 32% in a neutral light.

Respondents’ view of trucking was more positive than industries such as construction, food manufacturing, and the airlines. Further, 29% said their impression of trucking has improved over the past few months, suggesting positive messaging around trucking’s important role through this health crisis has resonated with the public. In addition, 72% of respondents acknowledged that trucking companies are essential to their lives. When was the last time trucking has garnered such positive recognition?

Covid-19 sign
(Photo: iStock)

The question now is, what are we going to do about it? The trucking industry continues to struggle to attract new talent, especially among youth and women. Similar work done by Abacus Data for Trucking HR Canada in the past has shown millennials are open to careers in trucking, but lack knowledge about what opportunities exist.

The trucking industry needs to harness this opportunity to better raise awareness about career opportunities in the industry, especially now that anxiety over livelihoods and personal finances is heightened. Trucking has rebounded sharply from the depths of the economic plunge in March and April – faster than most other industries. There are opportunities here that need to be better communicated to prospective new hires.

Meanwhile, positive messaging about the role trucking plays in our everyday lives must continue. Professional drivers deserve continued praise and acknowledgment for the work they do. More work must be done to ensure we eliminate the daily pain points they face, such as loading/unloading delays, lack of clean facilities and safe parking, and productivity-choking restrictions that affect their income.

The trucking industry must continue, and expand, its outreach to the general public on what opportunities exist and why our industry is – and always will be – an essential service. There has never been a greater opportunity for trucking to cement itself in the minds of Canadians as a vital cog in Canada’s economic engine, and contributor to the quality of life we all cherish.

That messaging will in turn attract millennials, who Coletto emphasized want to work in a profession that has purpose, and contributes to the greater good. The perfect opportunity has arrived. So I ask again, what are we going to do with it?

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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 james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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