How to make truck jobs more attractive to young Americans

The other day my son Dylan asked to join me at the office for a little father/son time. When walking into the office he noticed the project boards hung up around the walls, and began to ask questions. First one: NIKE with a list of recognizable words: RUN, EAT, STEP, FUEL, POINTS, PLUS... Then Verizon, more cool words: FAST, Experience, Security, Cloud... We then crossed over to the board room where a very recognizable name in the food distribution space is written on the wall (we often work with fleets on technology planning and selection), and beside this project he reads: End of Life, Regulatory, Safety and finally Driver Shortage... "Dad, how come they are short on drivers? In school we are learning about the economy and the amount of people not able to find work, why don't they just go work for XXX?"

"Well Dylan, people don't want to drive trucks anymore," I replied.

Timing was perfect... We were researching ways to improve life on the road and no better time than now to get to researching. The CLS team spent a few days at some truck stops talking to drivers and getting some direct information. Some of the gathered data was predictable: time away from home, safety, rate of pay and danger... Some things we were not expecting to hear: It’s becoming a non-American job, too much government, no longer a social job, treated like a commodity... and certainly a few shocking comments I can't write about. The reality is many of America's best drivers are leaving the industry for a lot of reasons, and the environment we documented is not attractive to young Americans. A similar research CLS performed for a luxury car brand project noted that college graduates were looking to work in highly collaborative, extremely social and high-paced environments that would provide them with opportunity for growth. So I have to ask, where is the social part of trucking today? How can a driver better himself or herself? And how can they collaborate for the better of America? Truth is, the recruiting practices by US carriers are getting desperate and we are looking for drivers anywhere we can find a warm body. Yeah, some of the carriers are hiring veterans, which is great, but it’s not fixing the problem. Social and community require like-minded and interested people. Not pockets of people who may or may not even speak the same language.  

We need to make trucking cool again, we need to make it about the open road, and about an old boys’ club (or girls’), but we have to reinstall community. This has to be fixed at the foundation of the industry: Driver Pay. Then we need to lessen the regulatory handcuffs and let these people make decisions, too. Don’t get me wrong, we need to have rules and we need to remain focused on safety, but we don't need 16 new rules every year. We also need the shippers and consignees to realize that when we run out of drivers or replace our drivers with people who are only driving a truck because it’s the only job they could get, they will have a significant problem. A problem that will cost a lot more than a few cents per mile.  

Later when I reviewed the findings with my son Dylan, I told him people don't want to drive trucks anymore because it’s just not cool, they don't get to be with people they like, they have too many bosses and no room to grow. My son then pointed out that maybe if we paid the trucker more money he or she would put up with some of the non-cool things and over time all the truckers will be happy and want to work behind the wheel because they will all be alike and maybe not so lonely anymore. Smart idea from a fifth grader…  

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