It’s no secret that America is dealing with a shortage of truck drivers, but the problem could be worse than many think. NPR reports that, while roughly 70% of goods in the United States are shipped by truck, the industry needs to hire at least 900,000 drivers to keep pace with the needs of the economy.
One issue is that of rising demand. As businesses like Amazon expand the convenience of having products directly to the home, the logistics of the truck driving industry need to change to compensate. But there are deeper demographic and cultural issues at the heart of the problem as well. As with many other industries, the baby boomer generation is aging out of the workforce, leaving behind a glut of openings within the field. But some in the industry think that the long hours and lonely environment create an environment that’s less appealing to younger workers. Those looking to fix the problem have been attacking it from multiple angles.
Rehabilitating the Image of the Industry
A large part of the problem may be the diminished reputation of the trucking profession. Where movies like Smokey and the Bandit once portrayed truckers as the cowboys of the 20th century, there’s a growing notion that media portrayals have become increasingly unflattering and that the trucker as a symbol of independence and blue-collar ethics has begun to fade. But some in the industry are looking to combat negative imaging. Trucking Moves America Forward focuses exclusively on bringing positive PR to the industry in the hopes that it can present the field in a more positive light to younger potential truck drivers.
Recruiting From Non-Traditional Sources
If the population you traditionally target isn’t meeting your needs, it may be time to start looking at new recruitment sources. An article by Fleet Owner suggests that outreach should be made more towards minority populations and women, and it’s a sensible point. 66% of today’s drivers are white males, and maintaining the current culture while this core demographic shrinks could produce diminishing returns. Only 6% of truck drivers are women. Targeted campaigns to reach out to these communities could create a more sustainable workforce model. Reaching out to veterans, who are often looking for reliable work in the wake of deployment and are often used to the rigorous discipline long-haul trucking requires, could serve as a meaningful stopgap to address the currently aging workforce.
Improving Working Conditions
But rehabilitating the image of the trucker and making a persuasive argument to knew demographic segments isn’t enough. There’s some truth in even the most stereotypical images, and focusing on doing the job appealing to new hires is possibly the best method for getting new blood and retaining workers. Shortening time allowed on the road could reduce the risk of driver burnout. Raising pay rates and offering benefits packages could further make the occupation more appealing to new hires. Sometimes, demanding less from your employees is the best way to ensure they perform at peak efficiency.