National Connections, Local Ownership
National Connections, Local Ownership

4 Ways to Get Millennials Behind the Wheel…and Mitigate the Driver Shortage

The driver shortage could be mitigated if we could persuade millennials and women of all ages to look at truck driving as a desired career.

In a recent IdeaXchange blog, Jane Clark, Vice President of Member Services for NationaLease, speaks to the issue of how younger and older people in the workplace each have concerns about the other’s generation. Older workers feel millennials think they are entitled and are irresponsible while younger workers think their older counterparts are out of touch and technologically incompetent. She offers some suggestions that will show young and old that there are important traits, beliefs, and behaviors that they can learn from one another.

All of this is true and important….but of greater importance, and one that haunts most fleet owners and managers, is convincing millennials that they should consider commercial truck driving as a desired career. Earlier this year, NBC News through its online channel posted an article that offers suggestions as to how companies should address this very real problem.

How much of a problem is it? By the middle of the next decade, the industry will need to hire 900,000 more drivers just to keep up with demand. And with 55 as the average age of commercial truck drivers, its clear that alternatives need to be found. Those that will be most impacted will be small to medium size fleets, partly because they may not have the resources to compete with larger fleets as regards to salary and benefits, all of which directly negatively affects their capacity.

The problems are actually exacerbated as the unemployment rate continues to improve. With more jobs available, commercial truck driving has to complete with greater competition from a wide range of industries. For those younger men and women not attending college, the search for employment begins around the age of 18 or 19. But with regulations that prohibit interstate commercial truck drivers under the age of 21, by the time young people reach the required age, they have already found other employment, again reducing the pool of available candidates.

One of the major issues is that long-haul trucking still occupies the realm of CB radios and truck stops in the minds of many millennials. The industry “feels” old school to younger people so it’s necessary to approach them where they “live”…and where they “live” most of the time is online. Recruiting through social networks like LinkedIn and other specialty sites is a help. But the industry is going to have to do more than that to have the qualified drivers they will need in the future. Here are four things they can do to mitigate this problem:

  • Show off technology – Millennials love technology, so show them how the latest trucks have not only adopted but indeed have embraced technology. From accident-avoidance technology to “luxury-appointed” cabs to social network compatibility, fleets should be bragging about the “cool” nature of the job.
  • Recruit more female drivers – More than half of the U.S. population is female, yet women make up a meager seven percent of the commercial driver workforce. The NBC news article points out that, 20 years ago, that might have seemed logical due to the heavy manual labor necessary; however, with current hydraulics and things like automated manual transmission, brawn is no longer a qualification for this job.
  • Continue recruiting military members – New regulations, at both the state and local levels have made it easier to recruit veterans. That is great news as so many of our veterans have extensive experience and personal qualities that make them ideal candidates and loyal employees. The industry is making concerted efforts to recruit these best of the best and will continue to do so.
  • Optimize autonomous vehicles – This is a long-term effort, of course, as truly autonomous vehicles are a way off. Some might say that this will actually have the effect of relieving the emergency shortage but the thought of a “no drivers needed” situation is still in the distance. The article cites an industry expert who notes that “A driver would still be needed in the vehicle, for emergencies, for handling the exit or entrance from the interstates, and for actually driving on the local roads.” Even after autonomous vehicles become the norm, one or two decades down the road, drivers will still be needed, but their functions may change considerably. And that may be a way to attract millennials.

The important thing is to remember, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), “Nearly 71 % of all freight tonnage moved in the U.S. goes on trucks.” With more online ordering and delivery, those numbers will only increase, so the need for drivers will continue to grow.

Discover how to bring your older and younger workers together for a better workplace by reading Jane’s blog.

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