TSQ: Why is it so difficult to attract younger drivers to trucking?
November 1, 2011
MILTON, Ont. - When posed with the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" most young children tend to stick to a fairly conventional list of occupations. Doctors, astronauts, fire fighters and athletes tend to dominate, but...
MILTON, Ont. – When posed with the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” most young children tend to stick to a fairly conventional list of occupations. Doctors, astronauts, fire fighters and athletes tend to dominate, but trucker? Not likely.
There was a time where the profession of truck driver was not only sought after by (mostly) young men, it was downright revered by all who shared the highways. Today, the interest in the occupation is dwindling among younger careerists, and the sector is aging rapidly.
Our own Transportation Media Research Group places the average age of truck drivers at 49, among the oldest of any sector, and with groups like the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council predicting significant driver shortages in the months to come, some say the industry is nearing crisis mode. But why does the industry struggle to recruit and retain young talent?
We asked drivers at the Fifth Wheel Truck Stop in Milton, Ont. to find out.
• Josh Parsons, 32, is as green as they come, with just one month of truck driving under his belt at Stevens Transport in Dallas, Texas. After a 12-year stint in the Navy, Parsons opted for a job behind the wheel, saying it always seemed like a cool job to him.
“I think a lot of people just don’t know what there is to offer. A lot of older drivers have been on the road a long time so they see what’s going on, but young people don’t know,” he told Truck News, adding that his military history gave him a window into what it’s like to be away from home for long periods of time.
• Gilles Proulx, a driver with Penner International in Winnipeg, Man., has more than 25 years under his belt and says that trucking companies tend to err towards older drivers with more experience when doing their hiring – placing new and younger drivers at a disadvantage.
“They are looking for experienced drivers. The industry, for the last few years, has been that way,” he said. “A lot of young guys are going to school and have a hard time getting a job because they don’t have the training, but they have to start somewhere.”
Proulx also says trucking is more dangerous than it’s given credit for – and not just because of the risk of crashes. “I was in New York a month ago…It was getting late and I thought if I slept overnight in the yard I could leave in the morning. A kid (at the yard) said, ‘You could do that, but you won’t be leaving in the morning.’ You know what I mean?”
• Chris Alexander of Dill’s Trucking in Mississauga, Ont., got his start driving a truck when he was just 18, and knew trucking was going to be his career from the get-go.
“I knew that this is what I wanted to do, even though my Mom and Dad said to stay in school and become a lawyer or something. I knew this was it,” he said.
But things have changed in the many years since Alexander got his start, he admits. From tight-belted insurance companies to over-zealous regulators to the anti-trucker public mentality, “the industry is in a slump,” he says.
“There is no love out here anymore. Everyone is out for themselves and no one helps anyone else. Why would anyone be attracted to it?” he ponders. “And why be gone from home for the same money you can make in an office?”
• Sam Clatterbuck, a driver with Baylor Transport in southern Indiana, chalks up young peoples’ indifference towards trucking to a simple lack of gumption.
“They don’t want to work because their Mommy and Daddy hand them everything. I know a lot of people that had the chance to get a job, but why should they when their parents take care of them?”
Clatterbuck also says most people would rather stay home than court the romance of the open road – which is what drew in so many truckers decades ago.
“Some of them want to be home with their families and girlfriends. A lot of them have kids and want to be home with them, too. If they can get jobs (that let them go) home every day, it won’t be bad, but a lot of them can’t and family comes first.”