Editorial Comment: Can technology help bring a youth movement to trucking?

by James Menzies

As the trucking industry mourns the passing of one of its greatest supporters, Canpar president and Canadian Trucking Alliance chairman John Cyopeck, I am reminded of a comment he made at last year’s Ontario Trucking Association convention.

Cyopeck was being honoured with the OTA’s Service to the Industry Award – a prestigious honour bestowed on trucking executives who have “by their commitment, vision, leadership and unstinting service, made an outstanding contribution to the development and success of the truck transportation industry.”

But when Cyopeck accepted the award, he suggested it was the trucking industry that had served him well over the years, not the other way around. And then he urged young people to get involved and embrace the industry because “This is a great industry.”

When Cyopeck made that comment, I glanced around the room and not surprisingly I could have counted the number of people under 30 years of age on one hand.

It’s no secret that the trucking industry has had difficulty attracting young workers. Trucking is not viewed as a glamorous profession and long-standing stereotypes cloud the vision of those outside the industry.

But I believe with the emergence of new technology, it is more possible than ever to begin convincing young people that trucking is, in fact, ‘cool.’

At Truck World in April I had the opportunity to give a couple of friends from outside the industry a quick tour of the show. Having never set foot inside a truck, they were wowed by the modern cabs and the amenities available to drivers.

They were also intrigued by the technology that was displayed at the show – GPS systems, the latest cell phones and other communication devices and software programs that provide routing and fuel tax calculating capabilities.

Make no mistake, they found all these gadgets and gizmos to be very cool. The under-30 crowd has grown up in an era where computers, video game consoles and cell phones have been a prime source of entertainment.

Kids today are navigating the Internet and playing video games as soon as they’re able to read.

Show me another industry that makes as much use of this technology as trucking!

As my friends commented at the show – who knew the trucking industry had evolved so much and become a leader in terms of employing the latest technology?

I think the industry must take a grass roots approach to getting young people interested in the profession and in doing so it should promote its use of technology. Trucking needs to shed its image of being an archaic profession of last resort. Today’s driver must be computer-savvy and resourceful and the industry should communicate this to the public.

This means getting into the schools and educating youngsters about how the industry has evolved over the years, letting kids climb around in modern truck cabs and demonstrating how technology has changed the face of the industry for the better.

If we accomplish that, maybe 15 years from now there’ll be a lot more fresh faces at the OTA’s annual convention.

James Menzies can be reached by phone at (416) 510-6896 or by e-mail at jmenzies@trucknews.com.

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