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.

Author

Deborah Lockridge
Deborah Lockridge

Deborah Lockridge

Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology. 28 Jesse H. Neal honors.

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Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology. 28 Jesse H. Neal honors.

View Bio
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