More than 7 million Americans make up the domestic trucking industry. However, commercial shipping needs are growing quickly, and the industry continues to have a difficult time finding new drivers to replace the ones that retire. Numerous factors contribute to the shortage of truck drivers, but one of the biggest is the negative image of truckers. Many wonder whether the trucking industry can turn itself around.
Trucking Isn’t a Desirable Career
Many people don’t find the trucker lifestyle appealing. TruckingTruth.com reports, “I think the typical image of a truck driver includes a middle-aged male who is tired, dirty, and hasn’t showered in a week.” On top of that, truckers often have to work odd overnight hours and spend significant time away from family. These factors have given truckers a bad image in the U.S., so it’s no wonder that trucking isn’t the first industry that people turn to for a career.
Initiatives to Reinvent the Trucker Image
Truckers have not always had a negative image. After all, in the 1970s, truckers were known as “Knights of the Road” who would rescue people when they needed a ride or when they were stranded on the side of the road. The industry recognizes that truckers now have an image problem, and some new initiatives want to reinvent that image.
An advocacy group known as Trucking Moves America Forward aims to modernize the trucker image. Kevin Burch heads the group and is also vice chairman of the American Trucking Association and president of Jet Express in Dayton, Ohio. Burch urges truckers to take pride in their own jobs in order to start transforming the way that others view the trucking industry. Additionally, the group helps make tools available to improve advertising campaigns and social campaigns.
Combatting the Truck Driver Shortage
Another initiative that aims to grow the trucking industry and improve the trucker image is the reduced driving age. In some states, people as young as 18 can become freight truck drivers. Congress is still trying to determine whether this poses too high of a safety risk, but the trucking industry is optimistic that young truck drivers will be able to haul freight across state borders in the near future.
Baby boomers are retiring in large numbers, which is one of the reasons for the truck driver shortage. Studies predict that by 2017, America could be in need of 250,000 new truck drivers to meet shipping demands. Reducing the truck driver age requirement would help combat the truck driver shortage because it increases the pool of eligible operators. It’s a viable option for young people who do not want to spend money on college and instead enter the workforce early at a decent wage.
Much still needs to be done to improve the truck driver image in the U.S. in order to increase the number of people interested in joining the industry. However, the Trucking Moves America Forward initiative and a reduced driver age should help. If not, businesses in all industries will start seeing higher shipping costs across the nation.