Whether regarded as still on or on again, no one will disagree there's a driver shortage This problem is not going away anytime soon or all by itself.
If trucking needs drivers not only for today but for next year and the year after that and twenty years after that, it had better start planning to grow some. Now.
Face it, the traditional source of drivers-rural white males-has dried up. And all the easy additional pickings, such as military veterans looking for a second career, have pretty much been plucked. It's past time to accept reality and get busy developing new sources.
And the key word is “develop.” It seems hardly a day goes by now that we don't hear about some far-fetched and expensive, if not outright harebrained, scheme to import drivers from some corner of the globe.
The latest such idea was hatched in our North American neighbor to the north. Despite what too many Americans think, Canada is not the U.S. But it mirrors us in some ways, including being a country that welcomes immigrants, has a driver shortage and is heavily dependent on trucking to move its goods.
According to a report in Canada's Asian Pacific Post, a labor-export firm controlled by the government of Vietnam said it has inked a deal to send 200 male truck drivers to Canada to work for two years. They will be among Vietnamese “guest workers” now in over 40 countries and will be paid $35,000 [U.S.] annually.
Down here, we've heard of fleets going everywhere from Puerto Rico to Poland to get drivers Not that there is anything wrong with any of that, as Jerry Seinfeld would say. After all, we are and probably always will remain a beacon of opportunity as the world's greatest nation of immigrants.
It's more a question of scope. And attitude. To back up, I think recruiting drivers from Puerto Rico makes great sense. They are fellow American citizens for starters.
But take that thought a step further and it leads you to wonder why so much more can not be done to recruit drivers from within our own communities.
Maybe I am ignorant and if so, please educate me. But it seems very few companies and industry groups are doing much at all to find and recruit truck drivers from our nation's minority communities. I can only think of two right off the bat: Ryder System and the Truckload Carriers Assn. (TCA).
If you want drivers for today and tomorrow, start growing them. Here at home. Were I a professional driver recruiter, I'd take my show on the road to the heart of our nation's cities. I'd seek out federal, state, local and non-governmental job-building programs or even various community forums to help me deliver a message. And that would be truck driving is a worthwhile occupation for anyone who can master the basic skills required and has the desire to succeed.
Getting urban dwellers turned on to trucking won't happen overnight. That's okay. Very little that's good or lasting every happens over night anyhow.
But by being there, showing serious intent, you will draw attention. That way you can start tilling fresh soil that will bear fruit if not right away, certainly down the road for years to come.
Where to start? Check in with TCA at www.truckload.org to get up to speed on their driver initiatives. Here are two outside groups that should have plenty of information on recruiting within minority communities: the National Council of La Raza (www.nclr.org) and the National Urban League (www.nul.org). Don't overlook the U.S. Dept. of Labor (www.dol.gov), especially its Employment & Training Admin. (www.doleta.gov).
Above all, accept that times have changed And so must trucking — if it is to keep more and more trucks on the road today and tomorrow.