‘WHAT DOES A TRUCKER LOOK LIKE?’

At­tract­ing atyp­i­cal truck­ers ( to look like to re­sem­ble)

Vocable (All English) - - Société - CATIE EDMONDSON

Amer­i­can busi­nesses are mak­ing a big ef­fort to re­cruit from a pro­fes­sion that is slowly dis­ap­pear­ing: heavy goods ve­hi­cle driv­ers. Their numbers have been in de­cline for sev­eral years, and are now at a record low. In­dus­tries are try­ing to at­tract a new kind of can­di­date, so, what is this new truck driver like?

Amer­ica’s

boom­ing econ­omy has a prob­lem: a short­age of truck driv­ers. The in­dus­try — his­tor­i­cally re­liant on older, white male driv­ers — is fac­ing a record short­age with an es­ti­mated 50,000 more driv­ers needed to meet de­mand, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tions. The lack of driv­ers is rip­pling through the sup­ply chain, caus­ing a bot­tle­neck of goods that is de­lay­ing de­liv­er­ies and prompt­ing some com­pa­nies to in­crease prices.

2. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and the in­dus­try are try­ing to al­le­vi­ate the prob­lem by loos­en­ing federal rules and en­tic­ing non­tra­di­tional driv­ers like women, teenagers and mi­nori­ties to op­er­ate big rigs. The Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment has re­cently side­lined a num­ber of safety reg­u­la­tions that truck­ing lob­by­ists said posed un­nec­es­sary bur­dens but that truck­ing unions sup­ported, in­clud­ing re­quir­ing that rigs be out­fit­ted with speed-lim­it­ing soft­ware and that driv­ers be screened for sleep ap­nea.

3. The White House is also back­ing a pi­lot pro­gram that al­lows younger driv­ers with mil­i­tary train­ing to op­er­ate com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles across state lines. While the pro­gram is a trial, it rep­re­sents a broader will­ing­ness to al­low driv­ers un­der 21 to make in­ter­state de­liv­er­ies — some­thing federal reg­u­la­tions pro­hibit. And, in a bid to re­cruit more driv­ers, many truck­ing com­pa­nies have added perks, in­clud­ing sign­ing bonuses and in­creased pay.

AT­TRACT­ING NEW PEO­PLE

4. The short­age has been per­co­lat­ing for some time, as younger gen­er­a­tions ex­pressed less in­ter­est in the in­dus­try and wages lagged. Dar­ren Hawkins, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of YRC Truck­ing, one of the nation’s largest freight car­ri­ers, said the sever­ity of the short­age means that suc­cess­fully tap­ping un­der­rep­re­sented pools of can­di­dates is cru­cial. 5. “There’s an in­dus­try prob­lem, and that is, we have to do a bet­ter job of at­tract­ing new peo­ple into the driv­ing oc­cu­pa­tion, pre­vi­ous au­di­ences we haven’t reached,” Hawkins said. “Right now the Amer­i­can Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tions says we’re 50,000 driv­ers short, and those numbers will con­tinue to grow. So we’ve got to open up other pieces.”

“We have to do a bet­ter job of at­tract­ing new peo­ple”

6. Truck­ing is al­ready more oner­ous to en­ter than some of the in­dus­try’s com­peti­tors, in­clud­ing retail, con­struc­tion and fast food. In ad­di­tion to weeks in truck­ing school, which can cost sev­eral thou­sand dol­lars, it of­ten re­quires driv­ers to spend long, soli­tary stretches of time away from home. Women and mi­nori­ties make up just frac­tions of the over­all truck­ing pop­u­la­tion: 94 per­cent of driv­ers are men, and twothirds of all driv­ers are white, ac­cord­ing to a 2017 re­port re­leased by the Amer­i­can Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tions.

MAK­ING TRUCK­ING COOL AGAIN

7. Fac­ing record driver short­ages, truck­ing com­pa­nies “are mak­ing the ad­just­ments be-

cause they have to,” said Kevin Reid, the founder of the Na­tional Mi­nor­ity Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tion. “The in­dus­try has not fo­cused on re­cruit­ing and re­tain­ing the next gen­er­a­tion. Truck­ing is an in­dus­try that needs to be re­branded. There was a cool fac­tor to truck­ing in the 1970s and 1980s. We don’t have that now, so the ques­tion is, how are we go­ing to reach the next gen­er­a­tion of truck­ers?”

8. Kristina Jack­son, a 22-year-old AfricanAmer­i­can truck driver based in Raleigh, North Carolina, is ex­actly the type of per­son the truck­ing in­dus­try wants to at­tract. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from col­lege, she wanted a job that would al­low her to travel and be fi­nan­cially in­de­pen­dent. She never con­sid­ered truck­ing un­til her boyfriend’s fa­ther, a trucker him­self, en­cour­aged her to give it a try.

9. A year into driv­ing, she is con­stantly re­minded that she’s an out­lier in the in­dus­try. “When peo­ple found out I was in truck­ing, they were shocked be­cause of my gender and age,” she said. “The first thing you think of is an old white male. Peo­ple say to me, ‘You don’t look like a trucker.’ I say, ‘What does a trucker look like?'” Jack­son thinks that more young peo­ple could eas­ily be per­suaded to join the in­dus­try, adding that she has re­cruited 10 of her friends in their 20s. But she thinks re­cruiters so far have done a poor job of show­cas­ing the young truck­ers in the in­dus­try. “When peo­ple think of truck­ers, they don’t see our faces,” Jack­son said of young driv­ers.

10. The mea­sure backed by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion seeks to change that and tar­gets high school grad­u­ates, a de­mo­graphic long con­sid­ered by truck­ing com­pa­nies that has re­mained largely out of re­cruiters’ reach.

RE­CRUIT­ING WOMEN

11. Hawkins said that low­er­ing the driv­ing age was just “one tool in a very large tool­box” and that truck­ing com­pa­nies would also have to reach out to women and mi­nori­ties. Ellen Voie, the pres­i­dent of the Women in Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, said the in­dus­try was be­gin­ning to re­al­ize it must do a bet­ter job of re­cruit­ing women. 12. One of the big­gest mar­ket­ing hur­dles the in­dus­try has to over­come is tamp­ing down the pre­vail­ing no­tion that the road is not an ap­pro­pri­ate — or safe — place for women. Voie said some men don’t think women should be driv­ing trucks. “They’re few and far be­tween, but they’re vo­cal,” she said. “But the ex­pe­ri­ence has changed a lot over the past five years be­cause car­ri­ers are try­ing hard to make sure women have a good ex­pe­ri­ence.”

(Is­tock)

In the United States, the truck­ing in­dus­try is fac­ing a record short­age.

(Travis Dove/ The New York Times)

Kristina Jack­son is a 22-year-old AfricanAmer­i­can truck driver based in North Carolina.

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