Talk to any person who works in or adjacent to trucking and they’ll tell you that in some way or another it worms its way into your brain, or heart, or both. I’m no exception. I haven’t been immune to its charm.
I was first introduced to the trucking industry in 2016 as an assistant editor at another trade magazine. It was there I got my first taste of the complex and ever-advancing industry that eventually became the backdrop of my professional identity.
After a stint covering the rail industry, I came to work for Deborah Lockridge at Heavy Duty Trucking. Working under someone like her, with over three decades of experience, and getting a byline next to the likes of the well-respected Jim Park (and other favorites like Jack Roberts and David Cullen) felt like a true privilege.
February marked my official first anniversary as HDT’s managing editor. I came in bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and everything felt exciting and new. What I didn’t expect was that initial excitement to never wear off. Not even fade. Not even a little.
What I learned from this year’s crop of HDT Truck Fleet Innovators is that that excitement never really does go away. Whether you’ve grown up with a trucker or found yourself in the industry by chance, when you find your place in trucking, something clicks. Once it clicks, there are endless paths to success and advancement if you give it a little innovative thinking. One thing’s for sure — trucking, in all its relentless and resilient glory, is never boring.
My return to the industry came on the heels of the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that fact colored just about every story to grace the pages of this and all magazines in the country. Less than two months before I officially changed my LinkedIn job title, COVID was designated as HDT’s Newsmaker of the Year (aka the event/person/trend/company that made the most headlines for the entire year.) You’d be hard-pressed to find a topic that had a greater impact on fleet readers in 2020.
Then those headlines were replaced by the supply chain crisis. There’s still a huge backlog in Class 8 trucks, some equipment is near-impossible to repair quickly, and just about every fleet manager I’ve spoken with has chucked their new-truck deployment timelines out the window.
Through all that we also have autonomous truck development, a bunch of fleets working on deploying electric trucks and driver retention and recruiting trends are at the top of mind. And yet, many in my life wonder why I still give them a weird look when they ask: “So, what’s so exciting about covering trucking anyway?” Where do I even start…?
As the mainstream media picks up stories on trucking-related issues (Did you see John Oliver’s comprehensive segment on the state of the trucking industry?); and celebrate trucking’s advancements, I think there will be more opportunities for recruiting people to the industry. And not just as drivers. Some people say trucking needs a new image or total rebrand to draw new and younger people in, but what if all it needs is a little more exposure? To me, trucking is already exciting. And what’s more, there’s a place for everyone.
With more and more social media influencers showing the real and the raw side of trucking on platforms like TikTok and Instagram, and companies and associations (like the Women In Trucking Association) embracing those avenues for sharing their programs, expertise and advice, I wouldn’t be surprised if more people organically found their way to the industry.
While I agree that there are some serious fixes that need to happen to make trucking a viable, attractive, long-term career for most people, I guess I still have a lot of faith in trucking’s charm. After all, it’s worked on me.
This editorial commentary first appeared in the May 2022 issue of Heavy Duty Trucking.