Years ago, driving a big truck cross-country was perceived as one of the most noble and even glorious professions a man could have. Baby boomers owned the majority of driving positions and until the last few years, there was no shortage of qualified people that wanted to be truck drivers. Unfortunately, that is not the case now. The demographics of the American truck driver are changing drastically and rapidly. Just five years ago the majority age of a truck driver was 33-44, now the majority of drivers are in the 45-54 year old range. This may not seem like a problem now, because it is said that 50 is the new 30. Compared to just a couple decades ago when 50 was considered “old” and retirement age, now 50 year olds are typically just as capable as 30 year olds. Although this is a good thing for now, it creates a major issue in the coming years.
When these 50 year olds become 60 year olds they will start thinking about making the transition away from trucking. There has already been an increase in drivers retiring at an earlier age. Early retirement is happening for a number of reasons. Many of the baby boomers are leaving the industry due to the new laws enforced on drivers. The new Hours of Service rules make them stop much more than they were once used to, causing them to make less money. Another reason why older drivers are leaving the trucking industry is all the new technology, I hate to stereotype, but in general, older people are not as tech-savvy as younger generations. With the new e-logs and digital communication coming up in the transportation industry, older drivers may get frustrated, sometimes frustrated enough to quit driving. These older drivers may dream of the “glory days” or truck driving when people looked up to truckers and when they got the respect they truly deserve.
With the upturn in the national economy, freight has been increasing rapidly, giving shippers an almost unlimited capacity to move freight. This has created more jobs in the transportation industry. But, it is difficult to fill these new positions. As we have all seen in the recent years there has been an extreme push to recruit drivers. It has become increasingly difficult to get qualified drivers behind the wheel for many reasons. Some of the reasons are pay and benefits, while some of the reasons may be perceptions of the job.
In the coming years, there will inevitably be an increase of driver retirement, leaving a huge void in the trucking industry. Almost every company has made speculations on the best ways to recruit younger drivers, but most have had little success. It is difficult to recruit this younger generation. With more job opportunities than ever before, many young people do not want to get into a career that is sometimes perceived as “less than glamorous” such as truck driving.
What can be done to change the perception and seemingly negative connotation of being a truck driver? In almost every survey that I have read, the main reason why people stray away from truck driving is pay, benefits, and time away from home. Most companies will have a hard time promising better home time. So, it seems we are left with pay and benefits to attract drivers. Pay was the number one reason why drivers chose a company or elected to switch companies, followed by home time, then benefits, then equipment. Home time seems to be a constant battle, so it seems the only thing we are left to improve on would be pay, benefits, and equipment.
The struggle to recruit younger drivers may be never ending but companies will find different strategies that work for them. Maybe the way we advertise our jobs or the way we describe them needs to be changed. Maybe we should all embrace the power of the internet and social media to recruit. Every company will need to continuously change with the industry to keep up with current recruiting efforts.