Trucks at Work
Landstar reported records for revenue, gross profit, operating income, net income, and diluted earnings per share. (Photo: Landstar)

Could longer human lifespans help trucking?

Here’s a thought: With the average life expectancy of U.S. residents increasing by 30 years compared to a century ago, could such added longevity help trucking potentially solve its driver shortage over the long term?

That’s a tough question, especially due to the ongoing push to put self-driving trucks on the road – a move that could potentially eliminate millions of jobs, but a development still heavy with skepticism.

Yet older drivers may prove to be a boon where trucking is concerned, especially due to their experience and what Joe Beacom, vice president and chief safety officer at Landstar Inc., calls their “laser-like” focus on safety.

“The level of experience tends to be much higher and they’ve got good safety and compliance records,” Beacom told me last week in a phone interview.

He noted that one reason Landstar calls its contracted drivers “business capacity owners” or BCOs instead of “owner-operators” is due to their business and safety mindset.

They are “better drivers and safer drivers,” Beacom explained, and they also trend older than the broad trucking driver pool as well, with an average age of 51 versus an industry average that hovers between 45 and 48. “And we have turnover in the mid 20s compared to many [TL] carriers where turnover exceeds 100%,” he added.

Those points are worth pondering along with data from The Gift of Time recently released by the Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America; a survey of 3,000 Americans that found more than nine in 10 of them (93%) maintain a “favorable view” of living 30 extra years, which the Stanford Center on Longevity reports is the average increase in life expectancy in the U.S. compared with 100 years ago.

In addition to positive views of a longer life, Allianz’s study reveals how longevity is making Americans rethink their major life choices, the paths they may take and alternative possibilities for their future – all good opportunities for trucking to step into the mix with its job openings.

Here’s why: most survey respondents (56%) said they would “travel extensively” or “live in a different place” (35%) with their 30 extra years, with nearly a quarter saying they’d “take more risks in life,” a common theme among the one-third of Americans who said they regretted many of their major life decisions (32%).

Among those top regrets: not following their dreams (39%), not taking risks with their career (38%) and not taking risks with their lives in general, such as pursuing new jobs, going back to school, etc. (36%).

More than a third (35%) also said they wish they’d been “more gutsy” in their choices and done things they really wanted to do, noted Katie Libbe, Allianz’s vice president of consumer insights.

“As Americans come to terms with the fact that they’ll likely live an extra 30 years, they have the opportunity to look back and evaluate their past decisions and consider the newfound possibilities for the future afforded by time,” Libbe pointed out.

“While the concept of longevity is relatively new, its implications are far-reaching and important. In addition to this study, we’re working with Stanford University’s Center on Longevity to create more awareness about this topic and how it impacts financial planning,” she added. “It’s important for people to understand that alternative life paths are still an option, but they may need to adjust their financial strategy to achieve goals that extend beyond a traditional retirement.”

Libbe emphasized that “longevity” creates opportunity and enthusiasm about alternative life paths that differ from the traditional and linear “school-work/marriage/kids-retirement” track that has been the de facto life template for generations.

When asked to design their ideal longer life, nearly half (49%) of Americans polled in Allianz’s study said they would prefer a nontraditional model that is unique to their interests – where they might work, take career breaks, go back to school, volunteer and try different things in no set order.

For many Americans, having more time opens the door to new opportunities, Libbe added, with respondents confirming a desire to explore different life paths: pursuing a dream like starting a new business (29%), having a second career doing something they truly enjoy (21%), volunteering/supporting the environment (19%), or retiring later by working fewer hours but for more years overall (16%).

Nearly half (47%) of respondents feel a longer life can enable a totally different view of how and when major life choices are made. In addition, a full 91% agreed that, with 30 extra years, it’s not enough to just put aside money for retirement – people would need a much clearer, more specific plan that falls outside the confines of traditional financial planning, Libbe noted.

“It’s encouraging that many Americans seem to understand that a new paradigm is needed to think about, plan for and fund a longer life,” she stressed. “By taking short- and mid-term goals into consideration while saving for retirement, people will have more freedom to try different things, pursue their passions and explore alternative life plans.”

Can trucking find a way to step into that gap? Maybe. And it might help alleviate some pressing problems if the industry can synch its job openings with the desires of many Americans to try “new things” over now-longer lifespans.

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