All That's Trucking

Patience, Persistence Needed to Bring Young People into the Industry

October 30, 2015

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My October editorial struck a nerve with one reader.

In "Don't Leave Trade Schools out of 'Free College' Debate," I chided politicians for focusing on getting more kids into college, when there are many skilled trades out there going begging for new blood, such as diesel technicians and electricians.

"I'm a firm believer in your position and I am actually living proof that you are absolutely right," wrote Tom Easter of Windsor, Calif. "I started out in school leaning toward an engineering degree. However, I soon found out that engineers do not have dirt under their fingernails or callouses on their hands. It just wasn't my cup of tea – plus I found out that a welder could have a great career just by getting a simple certification. Since I was already enrolled in a metallurgy course, I focused on the structural certification and once I had that, I went to work in the construction field making a great wage. Plus I didn't rack up huge amount of debt paying for a degree....

"We are in serious trouble here as far as finding people who want to work as mixer truck drivers.... We just participated in a career and job fair where we displayed a fire engine red custom painted, chrome plated, sparkling and beautiful Western Star mixer. I was shocked to see how little attention people paid to this truck and the lack of enthusiasm or interest they had in driving something like this for a living.

"We want to do more, we want to volunteer in schools to get the youth interested in working, we want to get our name in trade schools who offer training toward a career in the construction industry. We want to be on a list of companies who will train drivers once they have the required class "B" license or better. We want to ensure the longevity of our company by hiring younger drivers who want a job they can call home, who want to feel taken care of, who want to make this the last job they will ever have. In addition, we are constantly asked by our customers if we know of any young people who want to learn the trade and have a great career.
"From what we are seeing, the future does not look good as far as prospects in this industry. It seems to me that if people do not make a change in this area, work ethics will soon become a thing of the past with the current generation.

"What do we do, what are your thoughts?"

Well, as I told Tom, if I had an easy answer to that I could probably make a fortune selling it to trucking companies!

It's interesting to hear from Tom, because he's an example of how this driver shortage is different from ones in the past. Before, it was always the long-haul companies that had the biggest problem with driver turnover. Local companies where drivers could get home every night, like Tom's, did not have so much of a problem. That's changing.

It goes back to this whole “everyone has to go to college” idea. Yes, I went to college. But you know what? My father-in-law didn’t. He worked his way up, starting as a Greyhound bus driver and eventually working his way up to be a top executive at several trucking companies over the years. People don’t even seem to think of that type of career path as an option anymore.

As for Tom's question, what do we do? I think we just have to keep chipping away at it. Fleets, dealers, and others needing to attract a new generation need to get involved with trade schools.

But start even younger. See if you can take that truck to high schools, middle schools, elementary schools. Enter it in local parades. Work with other area companies to do a "touch a truck" event for kids to benefit charity.

Build a relationship with your local media to tell positive stories. And run the most safety-conscious and image-conscious fleet you can.


  1. 1. Josh bryngelson [ October 30, 2015 @ 07:37PM ]

    Kids are smart. Why would you want to be a trucker today? You are treated like a criminal you fight to find safe parking. Traffic is terrible all times of day and nite. Their is no training or restrictions for the motoring public we'll just put mor regs on trucking. Need I say more? Thanks for your time.

  2. 2. C Young [ November 02, 2015 @ 10:18AM ]

    For 22 years I have been treated like a second class person, held to enormously higher and higher standards, had to fight to be paid what I am owed, ordered to drive equipment that isn't safe to be on the road and then being punished when I refused, and after having to threaten to quit on the spot finally get a truck or trailer fixed, get punished again.....

    Young people today expect positive reinforcement and acknowledgement for their efforts. Trucking management doesn't understand how to use positive communication in any way, shape or form. If management continues to be too busy to communicate and interact with a driver, the problems of retaining and hiring people will only get worse.

    I did go to college. I quit half way through because as a driver I was making more than all of my friends who went to college. Now we make the same but I work twice as many hours. They get raises and I have to look up the word 'raise' in the dictionary to know what one is.

    I wish the same regs I have to work under applied to all motorists, hours you can drive, texting and phone laws, inspection rules, and acutally knowing how to drive. Instead of focusing on 3-4% of the drivers maybe focus on the larger proven danger- four wheelers!

    I wish all management were required to spend time with a driver, in the truck, twice a year to see what we actually do. Most of them only know what a truck is because of the one slowing them down from getting to the market on the way home before the football game.

    I wish also that drivers were treated like people and not like subhuman worthless trash. The office gets a bathroom with running water, drivers get a nasty portapotti, the office get to sit behind bulletproof glass, the drivers stand outside and have to yell through that glass. The drivers get searched coming into and out of work, the office staff bypasses the magnatometers and TSA groping.

    Middle management seems to be the biggest issue within trucking comapnies. Maybe we could start demanding that they figure out how to work with one wheel removed from their desk chair, order them to work nights and figure out how to juggle family life, punish them instead of coaching them to change their behaviors...heck, lets threaten a few of them in front of their peers with termination if they fail to do something illegal or impossible.

    I love to drive. I am proud of the hard work I do. I know the skills I have to allow me to drive safely over snow covered mountain passes very few people have. I know the patience I have to deal with the four wheelers who routinely pass me on the shoulder and cut me off is a level of patience only a truck driver posses.

    I also know that at 47, I am about to retire from trucking. I am tired of being treated like dirt by the public and the companies I have worked for.

    My two cents.

  3. 3. R Turner [ December 29, 2015 @ 12:24PM ]

    This publication is laughable, you are not one of us and have no clue how the real world operates. From mechanics to drivers we are severely underpaid. Example, new mechanic will make about 15-20 an hour to start, will need thousands of dollars in tools, work in some of the harshest conditions, destroy your back,knees etc. Have to literally know computer science, repair, diagnostics etc.., if he has a family charge him/her 250 a week plus about 5k deductiblefor health insurance"thanks obama". So just on that if you think for one minute people worth anything are going to work for this industry you are out of your mind.I could go on about the driving but C Young covered it well in the comment above.


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Author Bio

Deborah Lockridge

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All That's Trucking blog is just that – the editor's take on anything and everything related to trucking, with the help of guest posts from other HDT editors. Author Deborah Lockridge's career as an award-winning trucking journalist started in 1990.


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