The truck driver shortage is certainly nothing new. When we were researching our special issue, "100 Years of Trucking," which we published in 1998, I perused archived issues of our publication back into the 1920s (then it was called Western Truck Owner).

TI was surprised that the issues we addressed back then are very much the same issues we discuss on our pages today. Highways and infrastructure, fuel prices, equipment issues – and most important, the lack of competent, quality truck drivers.

It's not a new issue. But it's always been a hot one. But today, trucking companies are finding creative new ways to find and keep good drivers.

Swift Transportation, for example, gave away a million dollars each to two lucky drivers. Wil-Trans is giving drivers $10,000 bonuses if they stay onboard for five years. Pottle Transportation is guaranteeing drivers $150 a day, whether they're running or not.

These are just a few of the programs fleets are using to lure a high-quality driver force.

The industry's leading trade association is also getting into the act. The American Trucking Associations has launched a media campaign and web site – – designed to reach out to potential drivers outside the usual driving pool.

The traditional group continues to be white males, ages 35 to 54. The media campaign targets women, minorities, ex-military, people who are close to retirement age but don't want to completely retire and husband-and-wife teams.

Billboards and magazine ads promote the romance of being a trucker, with clever tag lines that read:

• My office has a better view than yours.

• Each day on the road is a new adventure.

• The road is calling. So answer it. All you have to do is take the wheel.

• Assembly lines don't give you stories you can tell.

• You grew up playing with trucks. What happened?

• 18 wheels. 50 states. One fantastic career.

The web site provides brief information on what it takes to become a professional truck driver and a registration form and application for those who might be interested. In addition, truck drivers can look for jobs, and trucking companies can post job availabilities.

ATA appropriated $500,000 to start up the campaign. If a state ATA affiliate organization raises X amount of dollars, ATA will match that money and it goes into an advertising campaign for the state, explains Elisabeth Barna, ATA vice president for strategic planning. "A lot of those states are pooling their dollars for a regional ad buy."

ATA worked with an ad agency to develop the campaign. The agency conducted focus groups and developed what it calls a "DNA of the Trucker," which it then used as a guide while developing the ads.

The campaign came to the attention of the "Good Morning America" TV show, which featured a billboard with the headline, "No one ever wrote a song called 'Mini Vanin'" on a March 7 segment touting second careers. Featured in the segment were two FedEx drivers – a husband-and-wife team in their late 50s and early 60s. As Tory Johnson, the show's workplace contributor, said, "Even the trucking industry is trying to lure such workers based on the theory that if they can drive a Winnebago into the sunset, they can handle an 18-wheeler, too."

And get paid for it!

E-mail Deb Whistler at [email protected]