It is funny (in a very sad way) not only how little understanding the general public has about trucks, the trucking industry, and how both support everyday life in this great country of ours, but also how so much of the opportunity is going begging in this $700 billion sector of the U.S. economy.
W. M. “Rusty” Rush (at right), chairman, president, and CEO of $4.7 billion dealership conglomerate Rush Enterprises, knows this all too well and shared some insight on some of those issues during his company’s 10th annual Rush Trucks Centers (RTC) Technician Skills Rodeo held this week here in San Antonio, TX.
“This industry is how people put food on the table,” he explained. “Whether they are drilling for oil, hauling freight, delivering ice cream, or picking up the trash, they are putting food on the table for their families and our country.”
Yet Rush also knows the backbone of the trucking industry – the people that are its truck drivers and technicians – is changing and in major ways.
“Not everyone works on cars like they used to back in the day,” he pointed out during a sit-down with reporters. And working on trucks for a living is “still not historically perceived” to be a good career, he added.
Changing that mindset is one reason why Rush said his company has invested heavily in RTC’s annual technician rodeo over the last decade – this year’s event cost north of $1.1 million, with plenty of fiscal help chipped in from a wide range of industry suppliers – and plans to continue doing so.
“Go back 15 years and you’ll see that 63% to 64% of our revenues came from truck sales, with the rest from parts and service,” he noted. “Today that is totally flipped and it’s not by happenstance. Because we found out people are what keeps this business [of trucking] up and running.”
Rush added that the bump-up in truck driver pay witnessed by the industry over the last several years – an increase of 17% to 20% by his figuring – is another indication that drivers are now being recognized for the hard work they do as well.
“There’s no one answer to the shortage we’re facing in both drivers and technicians; there are many,” he said. “The truck driver shortage is always going to be an issue; it’s going to be there.”
Yet Rush stressed that, on the technician side, by focusing heavily on recognizing the company’s workforce, through shop amenities such as air conditioning in all southern facilities and radiant heated floors in northern locations, along with the annual technician rodeo, will help with long-term retention.
Rush also hopes that the big winnings and cache of RTC’s rodeo will also continue to attract new blood into the truck technician side of the industry as well.
“We hope those and other tools will help us recruit and keep the best technicians in the industry and to keep developing them,” he said.