How to Drive Millennials to Trucking Careers

What’s up with Millennials? Why don’t they want trucking jobs and how can we change their minds? These aren’t just questions to be debated over drinks after work, but ones that need to make their way into the office, to be discussed with recruiters, with HR, with marketing—with pretty much everyone at your company.

Previously, we wrote about some of the things that make Millenials tick and the issues that might make them shy away from trucking careers (you can read the article here) A good summation of the Millennial mindset comes from Millennial trends expert Jeff Fromm, who told Fleet Owner in 2016 that the generation is “a technology-driven group who prefer flexibility and access to training related to their job, life skills, emotional intelligence, and leadership.”

How can we appeal to this group, which is so different from the generation preceding them? How can we help them understand that trucking can be a viable and fulfilling career? 

1. Rethink Recruitment

diverse recruitment

Broaden Your Target Audience

According to 2014 stats, over 66% of truck drivers are white males. Hispanic men represent 14.6% of drivers. Another 14.8% are men of other nationalities. Women, who make up over 50% of the U.S population, represent only 6% of truck drivers. Your company can appeal to women and minorities in several ways:

  • By making accommodations for religious beliefs, e.g. allowing drivers to abstain from hauling certain products (like pork), and making sure they can observe religious holidays and rituals.
  • By creating separate bathroom facilities for men and women.
  • By including bilingual speakers on your staff.
  • By creating zero tolerance for harassment policies.

Not only are minorities and women great potential candidates, but recruiting them helps to recruit all Millennials, who not only value diversity but are more diverse: 44.2% belong to a minority race or ethnic group.

Increasing the diversity of your company has another perk. According to global consulting firm McKinsey & Company, companies in the top quarter for both gender and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have above average financial returns.

Appeal to Millenials’ Desires

At first glance, truck driving and Millennial values don’t have much in common. At second look, though, there are some selling points you can emphasize.

  • Travel – Truck drivers get to take to the open road, to see the country, talk with people in places they’ve never even heard of—which fits in with Millennial’s desire to travel. Describe the job as the travel adventure it can be by choosing words like “cross-country” instead of “long haul.”
  • Flexible Hours – According to author Ann-Victoire Meillant (From Millennials with Love), this generation thinks not in terms of a work/life balance, but work/life integration. In other words, they’re not opposed to working odd or long hours, as long as the job fulfills them (or lets them fulfill other passions outside of their day jobs). The flexible hours involved in trucking can be an asset, as long as the flexibility isn’t too one-sided on the part of the employer. Make the idea of flexible hours one of the perks of the job, and if you have any local driving opportunities, promote those, too, as they might be a good fit for drivers wanting to spend time with their families (or pursuing those other passions).
  • Autonomy – Along with the desire for flexible hours, many Millenials would like to “be their own bosses.” Let potential recruits know that truck drivers have a degree of autonomy, which tends to increase as they gain experience over the years.

Tout the Value of Trucking

We in the industry understand the value of trucking, but many others don’t. Emphasize the importance of transporting goods, and don’t be afraid to talk about the driver shortage and its negative effects on the country and its economy. Millennials want to have a purpose in their work. Show them how driving a truck can fulfill that need.

Also, make sure potential drivers know about any community service projects or nonprofit partners your company works with. Support and promote industry-wide charitable efforts like The Wall that Heals, a traveling replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall. Highway Angel—an honor given by the Truckload Carriers Association to drivers who do good deeds—can also educate people about the positive aspects of the trucking community. You can link to its website, connect to the Highway Angel page on Facebook, or even better, nominate a driver who deserves the accolade.

Makeover Your Marketing Materials

Think about your recruitment materials and talking points from a Millennial’s point of view. Include women and minorities in images, show off the inside of trucks (cabs are drivers’ on-the-road “homes”), and post pictures of your trucks not in parking lots, but traveling through the countryside.

2. Practice Teamwork

teamwork

Millennials like to work in teams, and training is important to them. Check off both those boxes while fostering camaraderie within your fleet by pairing younger drivers with older mentors. Encourage the veteran truckers to address more than driving, like how to handle difficult work situations (like bad weather or surly customers), and the best ways to enjoy life on the road. “Someone who has been with your company for 20 years has a wealth of knowledge, and that person needs to be willing to share the knowledge with the Millennial,” says Karen Smerchek, president of Veriha Trucking Inc. “The Millennial wants to take that knowledge in because they want to learn and learn quickly. We’ve been quite successful in attracting and maintaining those staff.”

Mentoring can be a two-way street that’s beneficial to both parties. Remember, Millennials want to be of service. Allow them to mentor less tech-savvy drivers (without stepping on any toes, of course).

3. Adjust the Way You Work

Some of the things that make a workplace appealing to Millennials can be good for everyone. Think about:

Embracing Technology

As a whole, Millennials are drawn to technology, so the idea of autonomous trucking is appealing. “I can’t predict the exact business model, but I am certain that the whole trucking experience will change such that it will be appealing to young truck drivers,” says Vibhanshu Abhishek, assistant professor of information systems at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College. “They’ll be attracted to the technology, and because the truck has so many safety features, they won’t need as much experience. I also think that it will open the market up to more women. It could really help solve this shortage, which is not just an American problem, but a global problem.”

platooning technology

Providing a Cool Workspace

Much has been said about Millennials’ desire to work in office spaces that appeal to them aesthetically. Think about this in terms of your trucks—the interiors, that is. As mentioned earlier, a truck’s cab is a driver’s home on the road. Make it appealing. Nikola Motor Company has equipped truck cabs with full-sized fridges, 4K TV, integrated Apple TV and wifi. “The new generation, they love cool stuff,” says Nikola CEO Trevor Milton. “It’s really hard to recruit people into the trucking industry, so this is one of the things that can help with bringing people into the driver market.”

Communicating Well and Often

Millennials really do want to learn, and they want to know what they’re doing right and wrong. Regular feedback is important, as is ongoing communication, which may alert you to the fact that a Millennial worker is growing dissatisfied.

Offering Various Opportunities

If you do sense that a young worker is unhappy, consider allowing him or her to move to a different job or department.

Really Getting to Know Your Drivers

Learn the names of their family members. Observe important dates (birthdays and anniversaries, both work-related and personal). Let them know that they are valued as employees and as people.

4. Raise Salaries

“What? It’s already a great paying job,” we may think, but is it? A truck driver’s annual salary is $42,000, while the average U.S. worker salary is around $46,500 (2014 data). Many other careers don’t have the image hurdle to jump, and they are competing with the trucking industry for the millennial workforce. Between that competition for employees, the driver shortage, and the shrinking U.S. workforce, we may need to bite the bullet and raise salaries.

Leave the Driving (and the Drivers) to Us

5K Forklifts loaded on a stepdeck trailer.

Freight brokers can also help. It’s our job to deal with issues like finding drivers. At Next Exit Logistics, we earn the trust of our clients with efficiency, transparency, and security (read our testimonials). In addition, we understand how to handle freight services for unusual, oversize, or overweight shipments and are certified to arrange the shipment of hazardous materials. To learn more about our services, call Next Exit Logistics at 866-624-2661 or contact us via email.

 

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