The one thing that I was not oblivious to that resonated with me most was a comment that my father continuously made. He would say: “Truck drivers are basically driving around with 80,000 lb. missiles; that’s no joke!”; or something to that extent. I use that phrase to this day.
I was about 18 or so at the time of those dinner table discussions and can also remember our thoughts regarding what I would do after high school. I was working a full-time job at D’Angelo’s (If you haven’t been there, they have amazing Steak & Lobster! 😉) and was not exactly looking to continue down that path. The military discussion came and went rather quickly as that was not something I was particularly interested in.
My biggest interest was in video games; more specifically video game design. Going to Full Sail University in Florida seemed like the easy option for me at that point, but sadly I seemed to end up in the same boat as most others my age: college. More specifically, a college education that had nothing to do with what my goals were (if I even knew what they were at that point).
I open with the above story to show the typical situation that most high school graduates are faced with at the dinner table (or wherever else your life pondering discussions may happen). Currently, you are required to be a minimum of 21 years-old to driver interstate, commercially. If you are 18 years-old and have a Class-A CDL, you are only legally allowed to drive intrastate (within a single states’ borders). Due to the nature of driving, it’s almost a certainty that you will need to cross state lines while driving (especially in the Northeast). With this, problems are posed for would-be truck drivers coming out of high school.
The Age Gap: Why it Kills Trucking EmploymenT
There is a shortage of truck drivers. There, I said it. Wait! I don’t think that’s the right statement. Let’s try: “There is a shortage of truck drivers because we, as an industry, allow there to be.” What I mean by this is that a combination of regulations, insurance, and minimum requirements are what have lead to this so-called ‘driver shortage’ phrase that continues to pour out of everyone’s mouth. More specifically, the age restrictions set fourth by the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) create a ‘gap’ in the decision-making process for new high school graduates.
The time between graduation and that person making some sort of significant decision as to what they’d like to do with their life (17-21) is unavailable to the trucking industry. On top of that, people that may have initially wanted to drive at 17 or 18 may have found another career path that they are interested in by the time 21 rolls around. These two issues combined pose a huge problem to the overall labor force available to the industry.
I know the above may seem like an obvious problem, but I urge whoever is reading this to really take that in. Really take a second to think about that age group (17-21) and the implications of not having access to it. That means no high school job fairs, inefficient collegiate job fairs (due to half of the demographic not able to participate immediately), low ROI on any investments made towards ‘future’ generations, and a slew of other marketing, advertising, and recruiting opportunities that are unavailable to trucking companies.
The Bottom Line
A few years ago, I had the absolute pleasure of being invited to the facilities of a major Top 20 carrier to see how they recruit internally. Myself and another co-worker spent most of the time with the same core group of people who were nice enough to also invite us to a football game. The discussion of 18-21-year-old drivers came up between myself and the Director of Recruiting, to which it was rather obvious he was against the idea. I, however, was almost positive that regulations would eventually pass to allow this.
I think that many people understand and agree that enabling the 18-21-year-old demographic to drive commercially is a very simply solution to this ‘driver shortage’. The problems arise when safety & insurance enter the discussion. With these two categories alone, there are a slew of concerns and roadblocks preventing this important demographic from entering the Class-A CDL labor force. Tune in on Friday when I look at these much more debated topics. How in the world will our roads be safe with a bunch of 18-year-olds with 80,000 lb. missiles!?
Baby Boomers & Millenials
‘Baby Boomers’ and ‘Millennials’ are probably the two most discussed generational cohorts in the last few years. This is mainly due to the sheer number of people the labor force will (has) lose (lost) due to retirement and the fact that the millennial generation will be filling their shoes. Most of the focus tends to be on the fact that there are far more baby boomers than millennials; especially regarding their interest in trucking careers. Technology is usually another hot button topic and whether it can replace some of the jobs that will need filling (i.e. – robot cashiers at Mickey D’s). The topic that should be discussed regarding these generations, however, should be the job descriptions they are looking for.
Let’s face it, trucking doesn’t have the greatest working conditions. This is most certainly true of over-the-road positions that essentially require that drivers live in their trucks for weeks or even months at a time. No matter which way you spin it, this is not typically something that your everyday family man (or woman) is actively volunteering for. In fact, anyone familiar with the industry knows that filling local driving positions are traditionally far easier than filling over-the-road or regional positions. This is due to one thing and one thing only: home-time. I would certainly want to be home more and watch my children grow up in the house I paid for as well!
In come high school graduates! No family, no children, no commitments, no mortgage payments, no attachments. The bottom line is that the younger generation will always be better suited (lifestyle-wise) for a job requiring multiple weeks/months away from home. “See the 48-states out on the open road” will typically sound better to an 18-year old than to a 42-year old. When you then take into consideration pay for the position, I’m sure many high school grads would jump at the opportunity in lieu of sitting in classrooms for another 4 years.