Time to plant

April 1, 2007
As you sow so shall you reap. If fleet owners expect to have anywhere near enough drivers this year and next year and for 20 years after that, they had better start thinking of that parable from Sunday school.

As you sow so shall you reap. If fleet owners expect to have anywhere near enough drivers this year and next year and for 20 years after that, they had better start thinking of that parable from Sunday school.

Years ago the giant lumber firm Weyerhauser slapped a matter-of-fact slogan wherever it could: “Timber is a crop.” Old-growth forests and the environmental stewardship thereof aside, it's hard to refute the simple logic of that signature line. Indeed, anything that can be planted and grown to harvest and then replenished by repeating that cycle is a crop.

On some level it sounds crass perhaps but people are a crop, too. And as soon as trucking starts to view its driving force that way — as a renewable resource that bears careful management — it will start to see the end of the driver shortage.

It's just a crying shame that many fleet owners and industry leaders seek to fix the intractable shortage with scattershot, short-term and at best band-aid solutions that barely make a dent.

If you ask me, if you want drivers for today and tomorrow, you have to start growing them. Okay, so how do you do that? The most significant way would be to look beyond the industry's traditional labor pool of white males living in rural areas and seek out “seed” drivers who by you reaching out to them will help you develop plentiful new sources of drivers.

We've said it before at FleetOwner and now I'm saying it again. You don't have to go to the four corners of the globe to do this. Nope, just go to wherever you haven't been going.

If you're finding enough new hires at country music concerts and NASCAR races and other places that native-born white males with or without CDLs are supposedly to be found, than by all means keep that approach up. Those guys are there; you only have to turn a TV on to see that. But how many of them want to drive a big rig? Truth is they can be a trucker if they choose. But there are more employment opportunities of every imaginable kind even outside cities and towns these days than these erstwhile targets can shake a “gimme cap” at.

Why not look further afield for new recruits? There are millions of hard-working American citizens of every imaginable ethnic background other than white male who may very well make excellent truck drivers.

To reach as many people as possible and capture their imagination to get them interested in all the benefits of truck driving in the first place, you may want to at least have some of your ads, announcements and recruitment publications translated into other languages. The key one of course is Latin American Spanish but don't overlook Brazilian Portuguese while you're at it as well as whatever languages large immigrant groups near your terminals may speak.

As to where to place ads that will reach recent immigrants and members of other minority groups, you really should not have to look far in any metropolitan area — check local cable channels and what newspapers are being sold around town. The next step might be to do a bit of Googling.. just type in a phrase like “Spanish-language publications” and you can let your fingers do the walking.

If you'd prefer more advice on how to get started breaking new ground for your fleet, consider contacting these and other minority-advocacy groups that place an emphasis on job creation and career advancement: National Council of La Raza (www.nclr.org) and the National Urban League (www.nul.org).

Stop reading and start thinking, talking and planting for the future. Remember, you will reap what you sow but you won't harvest much standing around complaining how tough farming is.

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