While the technician shortage can’t be fixed tomorrow, Doug White believes it’s time for trucking to up its game when it comes to long-term solutions.
Doug White, vice president of maintenance of Dunbar Armored, Hunt Valley, Md., has been elected the 2016-2017 general chairman and treasurer of the American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council. We sat down with him at TMC’s annual meeting to talk about his priorities for the coming year — and number one is tackling the technician shortage.
“We need to get out to grammar schools and begin to have conversations with the kids — and their parents — about the opportunities in the trades,” he said, including medium and heavy truck technician as well as careers such as electrician or plumber.
“In some cases, I think we’re doing our kids an injustice,” he said, with the constant drumbeat of college, college, college. “There are so many great opportunities we’re not telling them about.”
When the economy winds down, he pointed out, companies will likely cut middle-management positions, “but we always will need our car fixed, our truck fixed, the plumbing in our house fixed.”
These are good-paying careers, he said, and with wage wars going on between companies trying to attract experienced techs, “I believe in our lifetime we will see the $100,000 a year technician.”
In a standing-room-only panel discussion earlier in the week, George Arrants of WheelTime told the audience that “If you’re not involved with your local schools, you’re part of the problem.”
When asked if he agreed with that, White said Arrants was “right on target.
“There’s a lot of us that need to look in the mirror” on that account, he said, “myself included.”
Just as important as reaching out to students and parents, he said, is educating teachers and guidance counselors.
To that end, White’s mission for his one-year term will be searching out associations of teachers, guidance counselors and other educators and getting himself invited to speak to groups of these people who are so influential in a young person’s career choice.
“It’s not going to just affect us,” he said. “The day’s going to come when you take your car into a dealer and you get a call a week later letting you know you’re next in line.”
White’s other message he wants to get out there this year is about the benefits of TMC membership.
“TMC is the best kept secret in the trucking industry,” he said, “and we’ve got to change that. Look at the number of fleets here compared to the number of fleets in the country.
"It’s a great organization; the best education you can get," he said. "The best money a company can spend. Some people say it’s expensive — but so is not knowing what you need to know.”