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Change Marketing, Driver Roles to Recruit Young Drivers

By Steve Brawner, Contributing Writer

The ideal truck driver is a 20-year veteran who is physically fit, has worked only for one carrier, has never had an accident and has already been named Driver of the Year.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many drivers like that available. In fact, the reality is just the opposite. According to the American Trucking Associations, the industry already faces a driver shortage of 35,000, and that number could grow to 240,000 by 2020. Given that reality, carriers can look for drivers among the usual sources – other carriers, second careerists, etc. Or they can widen the pool by looking at one other often-ignored source.

Young people.

In an informative speech to the Arkansas Trucking Association’s Safety Management Council Feb. 12, business consultant Max Farrell – himself a young whippersnapper at age 25 – said a large potential driver pool exists among the so-called millennial generation, which he defined as Americans born between 1980 and 2000.

That’s a group of people who have experienced the Wall Street crash and don’t trust big corporations, and who’ve earned college degrees that often haven’t landed them good-paying jobs. Because they’ve already gone to college, they’re used to being away from home. They place a high value on having cool experiences that they can share on social media. In fact, The Intelligence Group business consulting firm found that 64 percent would rather earn $40,000 in a job they love than $100,000 in a job they find boring. They want jobs with purpose that make a real difference. Instead of a work-life balance, they expect a work-life fusion where the two are blended together.

Sounds like potential truck drivers, doesn’t it?

To attract them, the motor carrier industry will have to rethink its recruiting tactics. A short time ago, Farrell created a driver recruiting website, Travel for America. The website touted the $60,000 annual salary a truck driver can earn, but it also emphasized a driver’s opportunity to see new places and meet people, make an impact on communities nationwide, and, for a generation interested in self-improvement, take audio courses while on the road. “We’re reinventing the future of the transportation industry by helping millennials get paid to travel the United States. Whether you are a student or a professional: Join the movement,” it said.

Within a week, 156 web surfers had signed up. Of that group, 38 percent were female, and 12 percent were from other countries. One “applicant” from West Africa could hardly wait to come to America to drive a truck.

Simple marketing won’t be enough to attract young people to the industry. Instead, industry processes and expectations will have to change, Farrell said. Millennials are restless, they want to grow along a career path, and they expect to change careers often. Motor carriers will have to work with those realities. Instead of annual reviews, millennials need consistent feedback. Because money is not their primary motivation, carriers should figure out ways that get them home rather than maximizing their time on the road.

Farrell said that one company that had openings for 12 drivers instead collected 2,000 applications from college graduates. That company was Oscar Mayer, and it was seeking drivers for its Wienermobile. The slots easily were filled because young people want their lives to tell a story.

Fleets can follow that example by telling truck driving’s story to a generation that, for lots of reasons, may be ready to listen. Of the 2,000 college applicants saying, “Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Wienermobile driver,” 1,988 ended up without a driving job. Maybe some of them could be inspired to join the motor carrier industry, where, instead of driving a fake big hot dog, they could drive a real big rig.

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Arkansas Trucking Association
PO Box 3476 (72203)
1401 West Capitol Ave.
Little Rock, AR 72201

(501) 372-3462 | Phone
(501) 376-1810 | Fax

Our Mission

  • PROTECT the collective interests of trucking companies in the political and regulatory arenas.
  • PROMOTE the dynamics of trucking so that people have a better understanding of the link between America's primary freight delivery system and the standard of living they enjoy.
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