The national economy is growing. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the GDP increased 2.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014. With this growth, trucking companies are racing to find drivers as their veteran driver population, mostly in the 50 year old age range, prepare to retire. But less than 2% of drivers nationally are under 25 years old, and less than 8% are under the age of 30.
Over the past decade, the industry has hardly grown its workforce. Those numbers are a problem, in part because of the lifestyle of the job is a very physically demanding role sitting hours on end and continuously traveling far from home. Young workers tend to prefer regional jobs with a balanced work/life experience. Furthermore, the lure of other industries like technology offer high salaries and better work hours.
Higher pay is always a great incentive. According to data from the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, annual average pay for general freight truck drivers was below $45,000 last year. Drivers who acquire specialized training and authorization to haul dangerous equipment can earn more, up to $70,000 annually and up.
For carriers, the challenge is both to attract applicants who might not otherwise have become truck drivers, but also to compete with other carriers for the few people who do enter the industry. As the demand for drivers is on the rise, drivers will not hesitate to leave a company if they think they can get a better deal someplace else. Smart employers will make sure they are the ones offering the best salary and benefits package to keep the staff they currently have, and recruit new drivers.
New technology is on the rise and carriers are utilizing various electronics to combat the long hours on the road. Two-way messaging with smart in-vehicle displays enables drivers to communicate in real time with dispatch and maintain a constant connection with the office.
Maintaining this connection allows drivers to stay safe and calm, and deliver goods on time.
Lastly, a mentorship program can help support new recruits and offer extra training and guidance. A trucking career requires a commercial driver’s license and no college degree. The Department of Motor Vehicles’ legal age requirement for a CDL is 18 years old to apply, and only 21 years old to haul hazardous materials. For many of these young drivers, this may be their first professional experience. And having the right mentor can help steer them into a prosperous career in the trucking industry.
The entire industry suffers when new, young drivers do not get behind the wheel and invest in a career in the industry. It is equally important for carriers to make an investment in their employees and offer rewarding employment packages.