The trucking industry keeps the country moving — quite literally. More than 70% of the products sold in the United States alone are moved by truck from factory to point of sale. Why, then, are so many trucking companies facing an employment crisis?
Put simply, it’s because trucking is, at its heart, an old boys’ club. Most truck drivers are middle-aged white men, and the industry hasn’t done much to change this image, even though the trucking sector needs more than 900,000 new drivers to meet the demand. So what can trucking companies do to help meet this need?
Experts believe the solution lies in changing the image surrounding trucking careers in order to entice more women and millennials to join the nationwide fleet.
Lowering the Average Age
Right now, the retirement age for people born before 1960 is 66, and this is slowly rising to 67 for those born after that date. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average age of a truck driver is around 55, meaning that many lifetime truckers are swiftly reaching the age of retirement and leaving the workforce. This, of course, is contributing to the employment crisis; there just aren’t enough new drivers coming in to replace those hanging up their hats and retiring.
Enticing millennials to enter into the world of truck driving could be a great way to offset the number of drivers being lost to retirement, but what will it take to bring them into the fold?
Bridging the Gender Gap
Some careers are still easier for one gender to perform than the other — male nurses are still looked upon as an anomaly, for example. On the other side of that coin is truck driving, in which less than 6% of the workforce is made up of women.
This is what we meant by calling trucking an old boys’ club; although there are some women behind the wheel, the majority of the work is being done by older men. While trucking isn’t an easy job, both men and women can be successful in the field. So why are so few women seeking commercial driver licenses (CDLs) and jobs in the trucking industry?
Bringing in New Blood
How can trucking companies bring in all, or even some, of the new drivers they need to help them meet the growing demand? There are more than a few things that companies can do bring in new blood.
Millennials are all about the (sometimes-mythical) work/life balance, and working as a trucker can throw this off. Offering flexible work hours — or as flexible as possible, anyway, considering the type of work involved — is one way to entice new drivers to look into a trucking career.
Talking to Drivers
There’s no better way to learn what drivers want out of their career than to talk to them directly. For trucking companies, survey your drivers to find out what they want out of their jobs. What would make them consider a career in trucking, and what would make them stay if they were considering leaving?
Don’t make assumptions or think you know what is best for your drivers just because you’re the boss. Talk to them and make changes accordingly.
Truck driving can be a lucrative career, but it doesn’t always have the most predictable pay scale. Most drivers, especially new ones, are paid a flat rate according to how many miles they drive during their shifts. This changeability can scare away new drivers. No one wants to work their lives away with no guarantee they’ll be able to pay the bills when they get home, after all.
But you don’t have to totally abandon the pay-by-miles setup that has served well for so long. Instead, many companies are now offering their drivers a minimum number of miles every week to help meet the high demand for truckers while still keeping their drivers paid.
Changing the Image
Sugarcoating the job isn’t the way to entice new drivers to enter the world of trucking. Be honest with them — it’s a hard job with long hours that will often take them far from home. The job isn’t the thing that needs to be changed, though. Instead, the whole trucking universe needs an image makeover.
Stop making people — clients and drivers alike — think trucking is a job that can only be done by men. Inclusive businesses, which have equal numbers of men and women and employ people of various backgrounds, races, ethnicities, and so on do better in the long run. According to industry experts, companies that offer both gender and ethnic diversity tend to rank higher in terms of annual financial returns than companies that don’t.
The trucking industry is in trouble, but companies can fix that by changing a few small things in the way they operate. And most importantly, remember that it’s not about you. Trucking companies survive based on the hard work of their drivers, and it’s up to these businesses to create an industry in which people of all kinds actually want to get behind the wheel.
Image Credit: Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com