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Why trucking companies must learn how to attract younger workers

By Verizon Connect January 25, 2023

It’s not a stretch to say that the trucking industry faces a looming crisis. Many industries are facing a worker shortage, but perhaps none more so than the trucking industry. Truck drivers are retiring by the tens of thousands, and new applications simply aren’t keeping pace. According to the American Trucking Associations, the industry was short 80,000 drivers (about the seating capacity of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum) in 2021, and that shortage could double to 160,000 by 2030.1

In order to meet the industry growth and replace truckers who leave the workforce, companies will need to recruit and retain younger millennial and Gen Z drivers. And while that can be challenging, there are ways that trucking companies can bring younger drivers into the industry.

How the industry got here

Part of the reason that the industry is facing a growing trucker shortage is due to the age demographics. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2021, more than half (52%) of truckers were older than 45. At the same time, only 6% of truckers are between 20 and 24 years old. 2 

As older drivers retire or leave the industry, the pool of younger workers ready to replace them is small, compared to the overall U.S. workforce. 

Additionally, while women make up nearly half (46%) of the overall workforce, less than 8% of truckers are women.3 

So, while the trucking industry does face a worker shortage and increasing competition from other industries, the good news is that there are large pools of untapped potential.

Understanding what motivates today’s workforce

The key to solving the driver shortage is understanding what motivates today’s drivers – especially women, younger millennials, and Gen Z workers. While all workers want to be well compensated and feel like they are valued and make a meaningful contribution to their company, there are key generational differences.

Not surprisingly, a report by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) found that the top motivating factor for younger drivers was compensation. However, younger drivers also said that having a stable career path, their love of driving, and having a flexible work/life balance were also extremely important motivating factors for joining and remaining in the industry. 

An overwhelming majority of younger drivers (84%) say that company culture is also important – particularly preferring a culture that is collaborative, supportive, and team-oriented. 4

How to effectively recruit new drivers

One of the most effective things companies can do to recruit younger drivers is to promote trucking as a career path, instead of just a “job,” since younger workers want to be able to grow their skills over the long run. Of course, this also means companies need to have or establish viable career pathways.

Additionally, the ATRI found that both small and large fleets can recruit new drivers by leveraging their direct connections with family, friends, and other professional contacts. Companies can also more effectively recruit by utilizing outreach initiatives. 

Regardless of fleet size, the companies surveyed by ATRI said that the following recruitment practices were very effective:

  • Focused outreach at technical schools or community colleges
  • Focused outreach at high schools
  • Initiatives focused on recruiting minority truck drivers
  • Initiatives focused on recruiting women truck drivers

If they’re not already, trucking companies should also post job ads on social media, since younger drivers are generally active on those platforms, and comfortable interacting with them.

How to retain drivers

Of course, recruiting new drivers is only half the battle – overcoming the trucker shortage means companies also need to retain new drivers. 

Obtaining a CDL can be prohibitively expensive for younger drivers. Offering apprenticeship programs or additional compensation can be an effective retention strategy. A robust training program is also a great way to keep truckers, especially young drivers, on the payroll. This includes not only hands-on training in the vehicle, but also training that develops new skills and supports career growth.

According to the ATRI report, other effective retention strategies include improving compensation and benefits, creating a positive company culture, and prioritizing schedule flexibility.

Trucking companies that specifically want to retain women or minority truckers can ensure that mentor, management, and leadership roles reflect those demographics.

Overcoming the driver shortage

The workforce challenge facing the trucking industry can certainly seem daunting, especially as trucking volume increases, and older drivers retire or leave the field. But there are several bright spots. Younger millennials, Gen Z, women, and minority drivers represent vast untapped pools of talent, and there is significant interest in the field as a viable career.

And as the ATRI report demonstrates, there are several proven strategies and tactics to successfully recruit and retain new talent.

To learn more about how to find new drivers and keep the ones you have content, check out our free on demand webinar or request an online demo

1 Bob Costello, “Driver Shortage Update 2021,” American Trucking Associations. Oct. 25, 2021.

2 “Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey”, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021, https://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11b.htm.

3 American Trucking Trends 2021, American Trucking Associations (2021).

4 Alex Leslie, Ph.D. and Danielle Crownover. Integrating Younger Adults into Trucking Careers. American Transportation Research Institute. July 2022.

Verizon Connect

Verizon Connect Staff represents a team of professionals passionate about everything telematics. Get to hear about the latest trends, product features and industry best practices from the desk of Verizon Connect Staff.

Tags: Performance & Coaching, Team Management

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