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Commentary: Can Autonomous Trucks Help You Attract Fresh Talent?

September 2017, TruckingInfo.com - Editorial

by Deborah Lockridge, Editor-in-Chief - Also by this author

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Deborah Lockridge
Deborah Lockridge

Those of us in the trucking press tend to shake our heads and roll our eyes at the breathless coverage in the mainstream and tech media about “driverless trucks” and “Uber for trucking.” We know trucking is a lot more complicated than piloting a truck down the road and getting one-off loads.

But there’s one good thing about all this coverage: It’s helping to make trucking look “cool” to young people who may never have thought about transportation and logistics as a career.

Brett Mowers with River Valley Foods in New York was one of HDT’s Emerging Leaders last year — a new award we started to highlight some of trucking’s rising stars. He agrees that technology can help make transportation and logistics seem a little more glamorous. “The thought of some driverless trucks are a little scary, but it’s also a little exciting to someone like me.”

And we need to capitalize on that, because from the truck cab to the shop to the corner office, our industry is graying. We need to bring in fresh talent and new ideas to ensure the continued success of our companies. But in addition to piquing their interest in our industry, we need programs to enhance their development, their knowledge of trucking and of the company they’re working for.

A Gallup poll of 1,700 U.S. workers asked Baby Boomers, Millennials, and Gen Xers to rate which factors were “extremely important” in their jobs. For Millennials, the opportunity to learn and grow was rated highly far more than for Baby Boomers or for their younger GenX counterparts. Another area that scored high for all three groups was the quality of the manager or management above them. (Interestingly, factors such as “fun place to work” and “informal work environment” earned much lower scores from all three generational groups.)

I’ve written before about U.S. Xpress’ award-winning Xpress Elite program, which rotates participants through the various company departments along with leadership training classes, mentoring programs and business challenges, to prepare both existing and new employees for leadership roles. Swift this year announced a leadership program as well, the Edge program (for education, discipline, guidance, and experience), an 18-month program aimed at helping individuals at the company succeed in the trucking industry. Seems to me these are a good approach to attracting and advancing the next generation of leadership.

We’re now starting to take nominations for this year’s class of HDT Emerging Leaders. We want to highlight under-40, up-and-coming leaders in all areas of trucking — executive-level management, operations, maintenance, safety, driver recruiting and retention, etc. We’ll honor them in the pages of the December issue, and share their insights on how to address industry challenges and how your company can better attract and develop your own emerging leaders.

“Just constantly bringing in new and diverse talent, a mix of younger generations and older generations, and let them mix together so they can bounce ideas off each other,” benefits both companies and employees, said one of our 2016 Emerging Leaders, Anthony “Tony” Thompson, maintenance and repair manager for Illinois-based Hub Group Trucking.

While many of our inaugural class of Emerging Leaders were from trucking backgrounds, one who was not was John Michell, director of finance at Daseke.

“It really is about perception,” he told us. “If you think about what’s coming down the pike, the people who are going to be successful in this business are the people who embrace technology; the people who can not only capture the data but can also do something with it. I think the combination of those two should attract lots of people.”

To nominate an employee (or yourself) as a 2017 Emerging Leader, go to www.surveymonkey.com/r/Emerging-Leaders-2017.

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