I bet those in the trucking business, especially in senior positions, go to sleep and wake up with a single thought: how to solve truck driver shortage issues. And this is entirely understandable, as there is a global shortage of more than 2 million truck drivers. This is not the end; the deficit will increase in the future as truck drivers are aging fast, and the need for transportation services is constantly growing. So what do you think the industry should do next? How to attract new generation employees and women to the industry? You can read below to find out all the options and possible cures.
So, what options does the logistics industry has?
The first one is related to autonomous trucks. Driverless trucks can and will eventually solve the problem. Still, it’s not viable today because we have yet to determine when such trucks and infrastructure will be available. It can take 10 years, but it also could take 50 years as well. The industry can’t wait for so long and needs more ad-hock decisions.
The second option is related to technology. If we combine artificial intelligence solutions, which would utilize trucking space better, add some uberization models when the same truck could be used in a way uber taxi cars (I heard about this solution in Hackathon I participated in). However, I think those technologies can’t solve the problem completely. Because truck trips and other logistics operations are already utilized to an unimaginable level, I wonder if more efficiencies could be added soon (except maybe last-mile courier deliveries, I will leave this topic for later). Moreover, I believe there is a huge chance that logistics uberization initiatives will fail because the truck is not a taxi; the processes there are much more complicated. As it’s impossible to take a truck, spin a few miles, and leave it. Moreover, Amazon has launched its program for the last mile and long-haul operations. And the success of this project is still doubtful because the workloads are significant if you want to earn a decent wage; therefore, the operator’s retention rate is quite low. And as the new generation prefers lifetime balance, I think that all of the existing uberization projects will not be as successful as initially thought.
The third option is to import truck drivers from developing countries. Many trucking companies do this, and it helps. But will this ad hock solution save trucking companies when older truck drivers start retiring, and will it cover the delivery economy’s future growth? It’s a good and valid question, and the answer is most likely not.
And the last option is to attract women and the younger generation to become truck/van/bus drivers. I wouldn’t say this is an easy option, but from what we saw in other industries, this is possible. And having in mind the limitations of the above options, this is one of the most realistic options.
How to attract women and the younger generation to trucking?
The answer is quite simple. It can be done as all previous industries did when they changed consumers’ buying behaviors or created new markets. For example, how has the tobacco industry changed women’s attitudes toward smoking? They have started pushing commercials of smoking women (It’s worth mentioning that the first commercials weren’t ethical because they lied that women could lose weight by smoking and about many other things; I do not recommend doing that, and I do not support this). Then the big tobacco industry thought of innovations like slim cigarettes, cigarettes with taste, etc. (Please note that I’m not promoting any tobacco products; just taking an example. Moreover, I do not think that women are somehow different, as suitable marketing activities have the same effect on any gender.). And we could find many more examples of changing behaviors and attitudes, but my point is that it’s possible.
The same story is valid with the younger generation. If the trucking industry could show the new generation how cool the truck driver’s job is, push the dream of constant traveling, and become a truck influencer, then the rise of the younger generation of truckers would increase dramatically.
So what should the trucking industry do?
The industry should start changing its attitude towards the truck drivers profession by using out the best public relationships and marketing practices (like micro-influencers creation, etc.). They should also reach out to truck manufacturers with ideas on how to tune the trucks to be more appealing to the younger generation and women. I understand this would be a complex and expensive task for just one company or a few biggest ones, so transport companies could start creating unified funds or clusters to push this through. Associations like IRU and others could be the ones who could help with this task. If you need more ideas on this topic, feel free to contact me.
It’s worth noting that the attraction of women and the younger generation will only be possible by improving working conditions and culture; marketing alone won’t help. Improved truck drivers’ work conditions are necessary, as we all must agree that this kind of job today isn’t super sexy. What improvements do I have in mind? Regular rest times, sleeping in hotels, no worries concerning maintenance, creating various gender and equal rights policies, improving diversity, etc.
I hear the question in your mind: Who will pay for this kind of improvement? And the answer is shippers. It’s important to understand that consumers need to forget cheap freight if they want to receive shoes the next day and do not want to sacrifice other convenient parts of their life, like eating bananas and reaping the benefits of different product abundance. The shift is already happening as pandemics have shown how vital logistics are, and the understanding will grow in the future. Still, logistics companies need to start communicating about this shift already today.
About the Author:
Thomas Ananjevas is a supply chain professional with 15 years of experience purchasing and selling Logistic services and building a supply chain from scratch. He founded a consulting, training, and staffing company that works exclusively with the logistics industry. Tomas is helping logistics companies implement the necessary changes to ensure business growth and continuity. You can set up a time to talk with Thomas about possible synergies by clicking here.