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Millennials are born between 1977 and 2000, and make up 25% of the U.S. population. The trucking industry could be a perfect fit for this technologically savvy generation.

What millennials want: Attracting today’s generation to trucking

June 15, 2016
Brian McMahon, 28, is a lot like others in his generation. He graduated from college and immediately started an internship. His thought at the time was: Build a resume, learn something new, gain some exposure, and leave after about a year. But things change, especially when one sees potential.

Brian McMahon, 28, is a lot like others in his generation. He graduated from college and immediately started an internship. His thought at the time was: Build a resume, learn something new, gain some exposure, and leave after about a year.

But things change, especially when one sees potential.

McMahon, who has a degree in finance, began working as an intern at Fleet Advantage, a Florida-based truck fleet business analytics, equipment financing and lifecycle cost management firm, back in 2010. He was the company’s first intern and is now a full-time financial analyst there. He was hired full-time after serving a year as an intern and worked in operations and pricing before taking on his current position.

Before he signed on as an intern with Fleet Advantage, McMahon said he never really equated trucking with technology and was under the misconception that the industry was antiquated and lacked entrepreneurialism. He soon found out how mistaken he was. And he thinks other millennials might share those same misconceptions.

Brian McMahon, financial analyst at Fleet Advantage

“It’s not about what attracted me to transportation, but more about why I stayed,” McMahon said. “I believe this is the real message that needs to be communicated to other young professionals who are still deciding where to plant their professional roots.”

Millennials are born between 1977 and 2000, and make up 25% of the U.S. population. According to FutureCast, a millennial marketing organization, the generation makes up 21% of consumer discretionary purchases – estimated at more than a trillion dollars in direct buying power.

Millennials – ages 18-34 – have surpassed Baby Boomers (ages 51-69) as the nation’s largest living generation, according to the Pew Research Center. Pew adds that the millennial generation continues to grow as young immigrants add more numbers to the group.

So, how can the industry not only attract, but also keep this budding population?

McMahon mentioned he was attracted to the fact that Fleet Advantage is progressive and uses what he calls “sophisticated data analytics coupled with finance” to help the industry make its business decisions. He added that he believes millennials are perfect for the industry because they are technologically savvy and have a strong desire to learn.

“Millennials grew up in a digital environment, with multi-tasking as a way of life,” he explained. “Our ability to research and think in a visual world has enabled me to add great value to the tried-and-true ways that many industry veterans have relied upon for years.”

For example, McMahon noted, fleet professionals are accustomed to spreadsheets. But, he added, with today’s sophisticated and abundant data, oftentimes a spreadsheet doesn’t tell the whole story.

“One of my contributions thus far has enabled the company to present data to customers in different formats outside of traditional spreadsheets so that customers can see a bigger opportunity for asset management, with greater possibilities for impact to their bottom line,” McMahon said. “This is a critical part of my experience, particularly when I stop and realize the impact I have on that customer’s business, but toward the broader economy as well. The more savings that we can identify in transportation, the greater the chance we can drive down costs for a consumer buying a gallon of milk, for example. In that context, there aren’t a lot of my peers who can honestly say they have that kind of impact on millions of people.”

And having an impact on people is what this generation seeks when it comes to finding employment.

Jeff Fromm, a partner at Barkely marketing and ad agency, where he is also a millennial trends keynote speaker, has written two research books about marketing for millennials. He also is a contributor to Forbes, and president of FutureCast. Fromm told Fleet Owner that millennials are a technology-driven group who prefer flexibility and access to training related to their job, life skills, emotional intelligence, and leadership. Fromm added that millennials love receiving feedback as well. 

If employers want to attract millennials, Fromm suggests onboarding new employees in a way that they quickly become comfortable with the company culture. He also stresses that at the workplace:

  • Feedback should be frequent, with at least quarterly check-ins
  • Communication be transparent and frequent as well
  • Opportunities for promotion should be common – for instance, creating more opportunities for advancement rather than making employees wait three years at a shot

“Let’s make sure that when your employees leave they are saying great things about your company, so it’s easier to recruit the next group,” Fromm told Fleet Owner. “Take a look at the benefits they receive – both related to their performance and longevity – and make it more desirable to stay with the company.”

For McMahon, another perk of the job is he works directly with industry veterans who have been with Fleet Advantage for 20-plus years, and he appreciates the exchange of ideas among generations.

“You have to have somewhat of an open mind when you’re hiring a millennial,” he said. “I don’t really subscribe to the perspective that you have to treat a millennial different. I just think that you have to understand that when you do hire them – when you have someone geared toward team structures, multitasking, and someone who is technologically advanced – that they’re there to complement the industry veterans. It’s the perfect marriage of the two.”

Though millennials as a group are an ideal fit for the industry, McMahon said he doesn’t think they’re joining the industry the way they should be. A lot of it, he said, goes back to those previously discussed misconceptions.

“When you look at the progress the industry has made and the advances in safety and technology and that it really drives the economy forward, I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised,” he said, adding that once the industry figures out a way to get them engaged in a conversation about what’s really taking place in terms of the technology and data sophistication, they’ll be impressed as well.

“I’m a strong advocate for this conversation to take place at the university level for other soon-to-be-grads still determining their career path,” McMahon said. “The more we can drive this message, the better off we’ll be at attracting other bright, young minds into an industry that literally keeps America moving.”

About the Author

Cristina Commendatore

Cristina Commendatore was previously the Editor-in-chief of FleetOwner magazine. She reported on the transportation industry since 2015, covering topics such as business operational challenges, driver and technician shortages, truck safety, and new vehicle technologies. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.

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