Plenty of people love and are enthralled by trucks at an early age. Think of the excitement of a child running to the window in the morning to watch the garbage truck come by, or the joy on a child’s face when they do an arm pump in the air and it’s returned by a trucker blowing his/her horn.
Somewhere along the way, though, it seems trucking loses its charm, or at least the interest in the industry doesn’t follow many into their first career choice. That’s evident in many of the interviews HDT conducts. Each year, for example, HDT interviews a cohort of trucking professionals under the age of 40 who we deem as HDT Emerging Leaders; and very few, if any, have told us they’ve dreamed of being in trucking. Either they grow up with family in the business, or they say they've “fallen” into it. While now they’re often passionate promoters of the industry and career, there often had to be some kind of push to get them there.
Where’s the disconnect? How can trucking keep young people excited and reestablish its image as a good career choice?
In 2021, the Next Generation in Trucking Association was established to do just that. Co-founded by Dave Dein, the mastermind behind one of the nation’s first high school truck driving programs, the nonprofit is dedicated to promoting trucking as a positive career field, and engaging and training people as young as high school age to be the next generation of trucking industry professionals.
But what if you can introduce children to the idea of the trucking industry in grade school? Could that help keep the excitement for trucking alive? And perhaps carry them into a high school program that leads to a successful career?
How Children's Books Can Help Plant the Seed for Trucking as a Career
One retired elementary school teacher thinks it’s important to expose students of all ages to many different career paths, trucking included.
“If we don't let them know, then it's not available to them, you know?” said Carol Gordon Ekster, author of the recently released children’s book, Trucker Kid, which highlights a child’s pride in her father’s career as a truck driver.
Ekster was a teacher for 35 years and was a finalist for New Hampshire Teacher of the Year. She said she would read picture books to her classroom multiple times a day. Even at older ages, such as the fourth graders she taught, picture books can serve as a backdrop for anything from writing lessons to social studies to math.
“I think there's an importance to every job if we're just made aware of it, and how blessed we are that we have people in the world willing to do all kinds of things,” Ekster said. “There are people who are going to bring medical supplies and goods. We need truckers. If you could feel the passion and see the goodness of what truckers and trucking does for our world, maybe you’d say, ‘Hey, one day I want to be a trucker.'”
The Inspiration Behind Trucker Kid by Carol Gordon Ekster
Ekster got the idea for the book in 2013 when she happened to sit next to a family at a restaurant who were talking about their recent road trip and trucking.
“She was the most precocious 3-year-old,” Ekster recalls of overhearing the family. “It’s a fiction story, but the idea of a little girl going with her daddy in the truck, it touched me somehow. I just loved the idea of the story.”
The idea for the story was inspired by truck driver John Fullbright and his daughter.
Russ Cox, the illustrator of the book, also has a son in the trucking industry.