There is a phrase we have all heard and some of us have likely said it, too. “The heavy-duty trucking industry just isn’t sexy.” For years, I have heard language like this used across our industry in regards to why we struggle to capture a new generation of employees.
Finding good people is probably the most common issue facing every business in the heavy-duty trucking industry right now. With an aging workforce, everyone recognizes the need to have youth injected into our businesses. All of the experience and knowledge our aging workforce has may soon be lost if we cannot find a new pool of talent to cross train and educate. So, what can we do?
How We Talk Matters
I was recently at a panel interview where several principles from across the industry were discussing challenges and opportunities that exist not only within their companies, but also across the industry as a whole. Sure enough, the question came up of how we can attract new talent to trucking. I was eager to hear how these highly respected business owners planned to appeal to the millennial generation. But what I heard was, “Well, our industry isn’t that sexy so…”
Even in a room filled with industry people excited to find out how business leaders planned to meet challenges, what I got was a self-defeating attitude that has no chance of attracting youthful talent - or any high-potential talent for that matter.
That attitude has become more and more apparent to me lately and is absolutely why we struggle to attract young talent to our industry. Imagine you are a young person trying to find work in this robust economy and you are looking at a few options. You start investigating the heavy-duty trucking industry, and one of the things you hear about it is – “it isn’t exactly a sexy industry, but you can make a good living.”
Talk about a vote of confidence. Who would ever want to work in such a place? Somewhere that I can make a decent living, but I have to accept that there is absolutely no excitement to be had in the industry I will be working in for the next 20-30 years? No thank you!
So I ask again, what can we do?
Millennials Want It, and We Have It
According to a Forbes article titled, “5 Things We Know Millennials Want From A Job”, a few things that millennials are searching for in a career are benefits that match their values, the ability to prioritize their family, loyalty from their company and work that has great social impact. I would also add that advancing technology and great corporate culture are important attributes that millennials seek out when looking for a career. Isn’t it true that the trucking industry has all of these qualities?
I believe that everyone working in our industry is of the opinion that out highways need to be as safe as possible because our families and loved ones all travel the same roads as the vehicles we work on, supply, make parts for, or operate do. For young employees looking to make a difference with their work, what better way than to work on products or vehicles that directly impact the safety of these roads?
In terms of technological advancement, we are in an interesting growth time for the technologies used on both trucks and trailers. From diagnostics to sensor technology to autonomous vehicles, the next 10–20 years will see a significant change in the technological landscape of our industry. Already, telematics are being used to track vehicles and provide diagnostics remotely. Artificial intelligence is on the horizon which will bring about another shift in the industry and how maintenance is conducted. New skill set from employees who will manage these technologies doesn't exisit in trucking at this point, and will be in increasing demand as the need to monitor and control these technologies grows. This is such an exciting opportunity for a new generation of technology-focused young people who do have these talents to join our industry.
Finally, our industry is made up of the best people this country has to offer. Through my years working in heavy-duty trucking, I have continually met the finest caliber of hardworking and genuine people this industry attracts. We are part of a national community, as well -- more than just an industry. And yet this industry still suffers from a stigma of being
So -- again -- what can we do to change this perception?
Become Industry Advocates
Full disclosure: I am a millennial and I have been working in the heavy-duty industry my entire life, so my opinions have been molded by a lifetime of great experiences. I grew up pushing a broom around a shop floor, painting offices and washing trucks. When it was time for me to choose a career after college, I couldn’t think of another industry I would rather work in.
Which is why I beleive that this is what we can do to attract more young people to trucking: Let’s stop saying and thinking that this isn’t a sexy industry. I care deeply about our industry and when I hear people say this it drives me crazy. These self-defeating thoughts are not only untrue, but have no value in growing and attracting new talent. We need to emphasize the positives aspects of trucking and promote all that the industry has to offer: the incredible people, robust and advancing technologies, value-based work that makes immediate impact on the safety of everyone on the road.
The reality is we do have an attractive industry. It is a message that can get young people curious about the heavy-duty trucking industry and help draw them to it. But only by proudly and loudly broadcasting that message can we attract the best young talent in American today and bring about a bright future for this industry.
So if we are serious about attracting younger people into trucking today, let’s start by recognizing exactly what we have to offer and realize how attractive trucking actually is.
Todd DiMascio is the national account manager for Stemco, supplier of a diverse line of systems and components for the commercial vehicle industry. This article was authored under the guidance and editorial standards of HDT’s editors to provide useful information to our readers.