Where are the younger drivers going?
We had the opportunity to speak with Lindsey Trent from the Next Generation in Trucking Association. During our conversation, Lindsey highlighted several key points relating to career options for today’s youth. Lindsey referenced a focus group conducted by the Nebraska Trucking Association showing career ads. It was determined that the group had very little knowledge about trucking as a career option. In fact, it was noted that many of those within the focus group were intrigued by the concept of being able to see the country and have a “tiny house” on wheels. Lindsey further described this moment by saying:
[The group was interested in the concept of giving back and knowing that truckers are essential workers. Without drivers, our grocery stores would not be stocked, and hospitals would go without resources. Truckers are our first line of defense and the group saw them as the heroes on the highway. That notion of giving back was very powerful] – Lindsey Trent.
As a millennial, I (and I’m sure many others who have preceded or followed) can attest that trucking was never truly presented as a career option. Perhaps it’s a result of the emphasis on college, or a conditioning of our “9-to-5” mentality. Either way, we see this career path gap getting larger. As I continued my conversation with Lindsey, another great point was made – among trade programs, we see an emphasis on plumbers, electricians, and other trades – but continuously, trucking is left out of the conversation.
So, how do you attract the next generation of professional drivers?
Awareness | The initial step is to create awareness and provide education about a career in trucking. Fleets should consider partnering with high schools and CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) training programs to raise awareness about career options for professional drivers. Building a positive narrative around the benefits of a career in trucking and the essential role that truck drivers play in our economy is critical to attracting a new generation of drivers.
Training | Once we have raised awareness around the viability of being a professional driver, the next major step to attracting and retaining drivers revolves around training. You might have seen growing support to allow younger drivers to enter the industry and drive interstate routes. While there are mixed feelings about this, the underlying theme is to promote training among our younger drivers. Fleets should heavily consider robust training and mentorship programs. Mentorship programs allow younger drivers to build confidence in their driving skills while gaining insight into career paths and options for the future. Organizations such as the Truckload Carriers Association are breaking ground on this topic with their Young Trucking Executive panel, which is focused on helping companies develop better plans for their future leaders.
Technology | Each generation of professional drivers brings a different expectation of how they complete their day-to-day work. As we know, there is much more that goes into being a professional driver than piloting their vehicle. The incoming generation of drivers are digital natives and grew up utilizing technology and smartphones in their day-to-day lives. They expect that technology will play a key role in helping to streamline and optimize their tasks and responsibilities on the job. Reducing manual steps and leveraging mobile technologies that allow incoming drivers to manage their day from their phone are essential to attracting new drivers.
Trucking technology solutions such as Transflo Mobile+ are critical in today’s market, allowing the driver to stay connected to their workday in one single application (preventing app fatigue – which is a whole other topic that we will cover later). Features that are particularly important:
- Live Chat – In an era of texting, this allows drivers to get quick answers via chat, eliminating the need to call their dispatch.
- Mobile Scanning – Enabling mobile scanning is vital to helping younger drivers quickly manage their paperwork and be more organized.
- Truck Friendly GPS – Eliminate the difficulties associated with route planning with a GPS system designed specifically for truck drivers.
- Safety Notifications – Tools like Drivewyze Safety+ provide key safety notifications about road hazards, height and weight restrictions, and other information that can help younger drivers stay safe on the road.
Environment & Social Causes | Most members of Generation “Z” are socially conscious and want to promote environmental sustainability (along with socio-economic initiatives). Having a plan for reducing emissions, participating in community outreach, and engaging employees is important to the younger generation as they evaluate their career options. They want to know that their time will be spent in a way that will make a larger contribution to the world – which is one of the reasons that trucking should be an intriguing career choice, given how essential the work is to the world.
The next generation of truck drivers is in an exploratory phase of their career options. The trucking industry has an incredible opportunity to educate the next generation on the careers available and the advancements taking place in the industry. Providing training and mentorship programs, embracing technology, and contributing to environmental sustainability are a few of the ways companies can attract and retain the next generation of drivers. It’s time for us to invest in our future and ensure the sustainability of the trucking industry for years to come.