After what seems like ages in an economic recession, our country is finally back on the up and up. Many industries are enjoying new growth, and as major cities—especially in the southern and western parts of the United States—expand, there is increasing demand for product and infrastructure.
With this growth comes more goods—and a lot of them. If you thought the roads seem more packed with tractor trailers than ever, you would not be wrong. Economic growth and demand means that trucks are constantly shuttling raw and finished products between city centers and rural areas. If anyone was looking for a job with security, it would seem as though driving these trucks would provide a steady income.
The Aging Trucking Industry: Where Are New Drivers?
The workforce of the trucking industry—namely drivers—is proportionally much older than the general workforce. The American Transportation Research Institute found that over 50% of drivers are over the age of 45, with astonishingly few young drivers on the force.
Much of the problem, say veteran drivers, is the living conditions, quality of life, and pay associated with trucking, which often scares away younger potential drivers from entering the field. With ever-increasing regulations threatening to make pay even lower, many older drivers discourage rookies from sticking around, instead turning them to greener (and less regulated) pastures. Further aggravating recruitment efforts is an extraordinarily high turnover rate, meaning that more and more inexperienced drivers are driving alongside you.
The solution to this shortage is much debated. The younger generation is conditioned to believe that the only path to making a living is by getting a four-year college degree. For those outside the industry, active recruitment and advertising could go a long way, as could improving financial aid for CDL programs.
Whatever the problem, however, it must be fixed. With a rapidly-aging workforce, driver numbers could plummet quickly. Those currently driving are placed under more and more stress as recruitment and retention efforts fail, and new drivers aren’t sticking around long enough to gain sufficient real-world driving experience, the kind that makes them tested, true, and safe drivers.
Why Does an Industry’s Recruitment and Retention Problems Matter to You?
In most other industries, we are shielded from the new, inexperienced employees. From student teachers to young legal clerks, most industries offer a sheltered learning curve that allows new hires to learn with close supervision.
In the trucking industry, brand new commercial drivers are barreling down the road beside you in a multi-ton truck, learning as they go, only inches away from your own car. These same new drivers could become experienced, safe veterans if they are retained—but so far, that isn’t happening.
Our best shot at safe highways is a combined effort from lawmakers and carriers alike, working together to create an industry that can flourish safely while still creating opportunities to earn a decent living. Keep your ears on the news—new transportation laws are discussed every day—and your eyes on the road.