Have we figured out how to attract a new crop of drivers?

by Derek Clouthier

The feedback I received on my column last month, ‘How would an outsider view truck driving when choosing a career?’ was both great, in the number of you who contacted me (you’ll even see some letters in this issue addressing the matter) and concerning, with the apparent absence of enthusiasm in choosing driving as a career and a lack of confidence that a new generation will want to get behind the wheel.

It seems there are two schools of thought behind what many believe will be a troublesome driver shortage in the imminent future.

The first is that truck driving is not what it used to be. It no longer provides people with the feeling of independence it once did, and the main culprit for that ‘loss of personal freedom’ is the implementation of new technologies, specifically electronic logging devices (ELDs), used to better monitor and keep track of what drivers are doing, where they are doing it, how they are doing it, how often they are doing it…pretty much what some feel is an eye over the their shoulder watching their every move.

Like I wrote in last month’s column, one of the biggest reasons people get into a truck as a career choice is the freedom that brings with it. Not sitting in an office with someone looking over your shoulder analyzing your performance. If that feeling becomes devoid with the use of monitoring devices like ELDs, then a big part of what used to make driving attractive is lost.

Engine technology was another advancement I heard some gripes over.

Costly and more frequent repairs were the main concern, which does a driver’s pocketbook no favors.

Bringing me to the issue of salary, something many in the industry have told me since I started with Truck West magazine is far too low to attract new employees given the nature of the job.

Constantly being away from your family and friends is not the most attractive feature of being on the road, and if truck drivers are not being paid handsomely, what is drawing them to the industry?

The second school of thought surfaced when I was writing the Last Word feature this month. The owner of the company I interviewed addressed the notion of a driver shortage and raised a good point: the best way to attract new drivers is to make getting the job more difficult though more vigorous training, which would help weed out those who simply choose to drive as a ‘last resort’, drive up wages and in turn attract more people to the industry.

New technology is not going anywhere, and for good reason. Though I can understand the frustrations some current drivers feel when it comes to ELDs and the invasiveness that accompanies them, the devices provide far too many benefits from a business standpoint.

Same goes for new engine technologies. Making trucks more fuel efficient and employing the use of telematics to solve issues before they happen is a big money-saver in the long run. Every vehicle on the road is more advanced now than ever before, so don’t expect engine technology to regress back to 1976 anytime soon.

But despite that fact that most of the feedback I received told me why you wouldn’t want to choose truck driving as a career, it was also able to decipher how the industry could get more young people interested in driving.

Technology and young people go hand-in-hand, so for many Millennials who may not want to sit in a cubical for a living, all they really need is to be offered a good wage and feel challenged, and the industry will have what it needs – quality professionals behind the wheel.

As always, please write a letter and tell me what you think.

Have your say

We won't publish or share your data