The best approach to solving the driver shortage requires the freight industry to embrace and implement a four-part plan that focuses on young age groups to ensure a steady flow of skilled and energized individuals that see the profession in a new light.
Mindful that the average age of a trucker in the U.S. is 56, it’s imperative trucking companies use the latest technology to attract and train prospects, recruit the recruited, target young problem solvers from STEM programs for advanced vehicle design, and expand the profession to appeal to tech geeks and vehicle lovers.
That’s the four-point plan for turning a growing and all-encompassing predicament for the logistics industry into an opportunity for wide-sweeping change to a profession that’s viable for many decades to come.
Embrace Advancing Technology
Perhaps the best way to reach young age groups – or get the attention of any audience – is to hit them where they live. In this case it’s on the Internet and smartphones. Apps on mobile devices currently used to track vehicle location and the next-level driving experience should be a key focus of outreach efforts to young age groups.
Mobile technology is a beginning, not the sole target. Transportation companies have already begun to embrace virtual reality (VR) to train and educate drivers via a headset and software-download to a smartphone. Remember that VR is hardly new, with awareness and use initially to enhance the playing of video games. VR offers a visual approach to training, education and more.
The continued application of technology to supply chain and transportation management challenges is also required as these recruits seek tech-savvy employers such as social media experts, companies touting disruptive technology, and startups that use advanced technology to drive their business forward.
Recruit the Recruited
This is my phrase for tackling the driver shortage by opening the profession up to those with actual truck driving experience who find it difficult to move from a trucker in the armed forces and/or driving chops in war zones.
Often highly skilled and trained, these valuable prospects encounter roadblocks back in the states when it comes to landing their commercial driver’s license (CDL). Aware of this growing issue, U.S. Senators Warren and Cornyn have advanced legislation that would make the conversion simpler and easier for those in the military looking to extend their experience in the profession when they return to the U.S.
The most attractive aspects of recruiting the recruited is the fact that drivers from the services are already experienced, which should lighten the load substantially from a training and education standpoint. And they want to keep on trucking which means they don’t need to be heavily recruited. Trucking is also a transferable skill.
The services continue to be a vital source of experienced logistics, supply chain and transportation management experts. Why not for truckers? The transportation industry needs more experienced problem solvers that live for challenges. And in the ever-changing freight shipping business – one effected by everything from hurricanes to traffic, where isn’t there a challenge?
Tap into the STEM pipeline
For those without children in STEM programs, which start in the earliest grades and continue throughout high school, be aware that the emphasis on this curriculum (Science, Technology Engineering and Math) is increasing daily across the U.S. and represents a key, problem-solving resource to our industry.
The thinking has been that greater exposure to these areas earlier in the lives of children – as part of a program loaded with problem solving and invention creation activities – will direct participants toward careers in these areas after high school and/or college. I believe that these participants can be influenced to use technology to meet the driver shortage challenge in the creation and advancement of autonomous vehicles, which simply do not need drivers.,
These programs have taken old-school science fairs to the next level with the creation of national invention conventions. Therefore, it’s hardly a reach to envision much of this group tackling the driver shortage problem by applying technology to provide a driverless vehicle solution.
In increasingly more states across the U.S., STEM invention competitions have taken root and offered school age children problem solving challenges previously in short supply at book-learning focus education efforts. Companies such as United Technologies, sponsor national independent invention conventions and tech companies including Microsoft, Google and others run their own annually – all hoping that STEM program participants become part of their future workforce.
Anyone looking for individuals to design autonomous vehicles would be well advised to become part of the STEM discussion – perhaps by sponsoring their invention fair events and providing their own. What works for other industries can surely work for ours.
The alluring aspect with the STEM opportunity is that their participants are problem solvers who, instead of reinventing the wheel, typically create new solutions – such as autonomous vehicle tech, powered by their STEM knowledge and hands-on experience.
Recast the Profession
To address the ongoing driver shortage, many have suggested trying to recast the profession. I submit that what the industry needs is to get aggressive, go on offense and aggressively pursue the three above-mentioned opportunities. If we keep a laser focus on those core challenges, there will be no need to try and recast the profession at all.
When there’s a manpower shortage or workforce challenge, sitting back and waiting for the solution to come to you doesn’t work. The transportation industry needs to go on the offensive, especially to realize any rewards from the discussed opportunities.
More than anything, we together need to think as a youth and act accordingly. Reach them where they live, offer the tech they use, catch them at an early age and make sure they’re well aware that driving is much more than just steering a vehicle.
Be it at high school or trade school career fairs, be on campus just like college recruiters are and where members of the armed forces are concerned, be there for them when they need your support the most.
The four-point plan outlined above is just that, a plan. It identifies areas of great opportunity for a profession that needs to evolve. The plan needs to be embraced, evolved, implemented and maintained for it to solve the current driver shortage.
The shortage will likely get worse before it gets better, as some of the points require time and effort to act on effectively. Trucking is as much a part of Americana as watching sports, Thanksgiving dinners and taking pride in your ride.
Let’s rise to the occasion and take on yet another of the challenges that problem solvers in the transportation industry have a long history of tackling.
Dan Clark, Kuebix Founder and President, is a transportation industry veteran. He possesses extensive operations and sales experience gained from years of working with leading freight carriers and multibillion-dollar companies. Kuebix offers a transportation management system (TMS) that delivers true freight intelligence empowering companies to capitalize on supply chain opportunities through visibility, collaboration and predictive analytics. Dan is a passionate thought leader on how technology is revolutionizing the logistics industry. You can read his unobstructed view of supply chain logistics in his blog “Supply Chain 20/20.”