It speaks volumes that companies searching for solutions to the trucker shortage are frantically looking into automated vehicles as a logistics alternative for the proposed, human fix: young adult drivers. While the fulfillment industry may be put off by the stereotypical perception as poor drivers, perhaps we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss what may be a brilliant way to solve two issues at once: dismal job opportunities for young adults and an industry that is facing an ever-growing employee shortage. The most brilliant shipping solutions won't mean a thing if packages can't get where they need to go, and with drone potential tangled in red tape for likely years to come, it's time to seriously consider what putting more younger drivers on the road could do for freight carriers and the businesses whose merchandise they carry.
Opening the Doors to Long-haul Trucking Could Be the Solution We Need...
Unfortunately, getting young adults behind the wheel isn't only a company decision, it's a federal one. While, currently, anyone over the age of 18 can be licensed to a drive big rig within the confines of a certain state, long haul trucking is a no-go until Congress signs off on a bill that would allow these young drivers to cross state lines.
There are currently several pieces of legislation winding through the House and Senate, seeking to pull the driving age for interstate truckers down to 19-and-a-half and 18, respectively, but without the support of industry lobbyists it’s uncertain how far such measures will get. And without other alternatives in place, the trucking industry is back to sighing over the same shortage problems. As current trucking employees leave or age out, the problem only stands to worsen without a viable solution in place, and frankly, business can't afford to wait while lawmakers mull over passing desperately-needed permissions.
...If Young Adults Know about the Opportunity
Yes, there are plenty of young adults ready and willing to work, many of whom would happily climb behind the wheel once they get the federal green light, but they need to know where to sign up. Outreach programs are a necessary component of getting this entire age-based solution to work in a real-time business environment, and that means supporting a presence in schools and job placement offices focused on youth.
HR departments must take the lead as they are the best team equipped to usher in new talent that may be unfamiliar with the industry as a whole. In Transport Topics, writer Jonathan S. Reiskin highlights an interesting program, in which new, young drivers ride "shotgun" alongside seasoned professionals for a pre-determined time in order to comfortably assume the reins. Programs like this can help ease the transition for both sets of employees, and cement good practices as well.
Shipping solutions don't manifest overnight, nor will the human hands that facilitate them. Young adults, while eager to work and quick to learn, will need more guidance than their older driving counterparts. Companies must be willing to provide this guidance, even if it means extra effort and time. The investment in these young employees can be a worthwhile one, as it's entirely possible they will remain with a company for years or even decades after entering the trucking industry. It's important to listen to their needs—even without children or other geographical ties to call them home, they still have needs in terms of salary and scheduling. Treat them well and welcome them in, and the trucker shortage may soon be an unpleasant memory within the industry.
Give young adults a chance: it may be our best hope for salvaging the industry and getting trucks back on the road.