Truck Driver Shortage: Is a Generational Gap Between Truckers to Blame?
Editors Note: This guest blog touches on a very sensitive subject of generational gaps between truck drivers and the impact on the truck driver shortage. At the heart of the supply chain and logistics in America, are the trucks that haul shippers' freight. If you work in the supply chain, logistics, or transportation, this post is an important discussion to follow, as the truck driver shortage fuels the capacity crunch and impacts the costs of logistics and supply chains.
Is the Truck Driver Shortage Worsened with Such a Large Generational Gap Between Newer and Older Truck Drivers?
In a time when the trucking industry is experiencing an acute truck driver shortage, the cultural gap between younger drivers and old-schoolers only seems to be widening.
Industry forums reveal that the internal industry discontent is rising. Rookie truckers see the more experienced ones as condescending, technology-inept, and refusing to lend a helping hand when needed. At the same time, the old tend to view the young as technology-addicted slackers, with negative attitudes and poor mechanical skills.
Every generation blames the one before, be it for battles unfinished, unsettled scores or overlooked possibilities in a lifetime of hardships. It’s only natural that while the young appreciate a word from the wise, they prefer to blaze their own trail. But is one side more right than the other? And, is it only adding to the truck driver shortage by creating a bad culture environment and reputation to future drivers?
For the most part, it seems like the bad rap from both sides is nothing but stereotyping as a display of mutual distrust. Let’s take a look at the most heated arguments.
#1 Is Trucking a Job or Career?
The biggest point of contention between the old and the young in the trucking business contributing to a possible truck driver shortage, might be their investment in the job. Veterans who take pride in trucking might think that the youngsters don’t take the job seriously enough, as many do it only for the paycheck.
After decades behind the wheel, experienced truckers have come to love what they do – while it may have started as a way to support their families, it’s inevitably grown into so much more. Much like the Zen Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, for many truckers trucking has become a veritable form of art – it’s a genuine expression of creativity and source of meaning. Having spent a big chunk of their life on the road, their 18-wheeler has become home away from home and a part of who they are; it has become part of the family.
And this difference in attitude is often what turns out to be a great generational divide. Older drivers may disprove of their younger colleagues if they treat trucking like a mere job where they can make a quick buck, then go home and relax. This attitude paints a picture of newer truckers as disinterested co-workers, who don’t really care about trucking or see it as the honorable, specialized profession that it is.
But it’s important to remember that care doesn’t necessarily always look the same. Even if rookie truckers are doing things differently, it doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate the nuances and hidden meaning of driving a truck. It’s especially important to remember this when it comes to technology…
#2 Should Old Technology be Totally Replaced by New Gadgets?
Here fiery opinions are exchanged like blazing guns during crossfire. We all know that there are no shortage of fiery debates around the truck driver shortage...just take a look at this LinkedIn Discussion thread.
Most rookies rely heavily on their GPS or Google maps to do their route-planning. Old-timers, on the other hand, might still use an atlas with detailed maps of every state, and, you know – actually know how to read a map. You can almost hear them saying: “Those sons of guns can’t even find their way out of a parking garage without a GPS!”
Finding your way is one thing, but technology also comes into play when it comes to keeping entertained and awake. While most of trucking veterans enjoy listening to the CB radio, many of the younger truckers keep the CB radio off, because they don’t want to listen to other truckers’ “trash-talk.” Youngsters often prefer Sirius satellite radio to keep them company. But for both groups, the good old AM/FM radio is still a trustworthy friend when it comes to staying awake during those odd hours behind the wheel.
So, is one tech preference better and more useful than the other? Any answer here is satisfactory, as long as it helps you get the job done and do it safely.
With the high volume of all goods transported by the trucking industry, safety is a major concern among truckers. Even though statistics show that out of the 45,000 traffic deaths occurring in the US each year, only 4% of them are trucker fatigue related, it doesn’t hurt to try to make that number go down to zero by using extra precautions.
When it comes to safety, technology can be both a friend and a foe. So it might be best to take the middle path. Why not use both old and new pieces of technology during your drive? Using whatever makes you comfortable is a great place to start, but new tech can also improve both your comfort and your safety.
Our suggestion to resolve the debate? Keep the authentic spirit alive while being welcoming to helpful modern technology.
#3 Can You Rip an Engine Apart and Put it Back Together?
Most newbies (and let’s be honest, some old-timers) would likely answer “no.” Some may go as far as to say that perhaps 50-70 % of new truck drivers don’t even have a toolbox in the truck they’re driving.
Now, while that may sound a bit exaggerated, it may very well be true. While new-comers may feel safe with the power of Google in their pockets, it might be a good idea for newer drivers to pick the brains of the old ones as they go. There’s nothing like learning from past experience, and it’d be wise to tap into the knowledge veteran drivers have accumulated over the years.
And let’s not forget – those who are mechanical-savvy include both experienced truckers and some younger truckers. Those who have grown up in the trade may be pretty familiar with a truck’s basic mechanics. And there’s little they can’t do. They’ve picked up many useful tips by watching and listening to more experienced drivers. In some instances, they may not be able to fix the problem, but at least they’ll have enough knowledge to identify it.
For the rest of us, young and old, it’s a good idea to make an effort to reach that same level of knowledge. So many things can go wrong on the road, from an innocent flat tire to broken clutch cables or problems with the starter motor. Being able to fix your own truck would definitely save you time, energy and money. If you make self-sufficiency your goal, whatever level you’re at currently, you’ll make your life instantly less stressful.
Despite all their differences, truckers old and young will probably agree that “you are only as good as you want to be.” When it comes to the truck driver shortage, we need to recruit talent and those who are passionate.
At the end of the day, it’s everyone’s personal responsibility to make an effort to learn as much as possible. Keeping a positive attitude, especially toward the new technology and trends, is a must in order to survive on the road. And the wisdom of veterans may be invaluable to younger drivers who are just starting out.
So who wins the battle? Are old truckers or new truckers the “real truckers”? It’s not generational, some say, because it’s not the number of years spent driving that make a trucker a professional. It’s how much you care.
What do you think? Where do you stand on the generational debate and how it may be fueling fire in the truck driver shortage? Tell us your thoughts by leaving a comment in the section below.
Svetlana Guineva is a contributor for Bryant Surety Bonds blog. She is a graduate of Metropolitan State University of Denver and is an expert in the field of surety bonds and licensing. She has written numerous articles on the topic of Freight Broker Bonds and Auto Dealer Licensing.