‘WHAT DOES A TRUCKER LOOK LIKE?’
Attracting atypical truckers ( to look like to resemble)
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?
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.
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.”
In the United States, the trucking industry is facing a record shortage.
Kristina Jackson is a 22-year-old AfricanAmerican truck driver based in North Carolina.