As more and more Americans rely on online shopping and speedy delivery to acquire food, prescriptions, household goods and other necessities, the United States supply chain is under strain. According to ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello, the transportation industry will need to hire 1 million new drivers over the next 10 years.
But truck drivers are an aging workforce. Where will these new drivers come from?
Training A New Generation of Truck Drivers
The Next Generation in Trucking Association thinks high school students are the key to filling the driver shortage. Founded by high school teacher and former truck driver Dave Dein, the program works with high schools and community and technical colleges around the country to show young people the benefits of a career in trucking and help them start preparing now. The program also provides students and schools with access to free and discounted resources, partnerships and apprenticeship programs in the trucking industry.
Among those schools is Patterson High School in Patterson, California. PH is one of only a handful of high schools in the U.S. to offer a CDL driver program. Students learn through a combination of classroom instruction, simulators and online training from ITI.
PHS recently switched from a standard textbook to ITI training, and students vastly prefer ITI's interactive, video-based instruction. Students say ITI training is easier to understand, more detailed and more interesting than a textbook. The curriculum is "well-organized and easy to access," one student said. "The thing I like best is that I don't have to read," another said.
Students prefer ITI's interactive, video-based training to a standard textbook.
A Steady Job and Freedom to see the Country
ITI CEO Nathan Stahlman believes that with the right training and resources, it won't be hard to persuade high school students on the value of a career in trucking. "A career in trucking offers a steady job, good pay and a lot of freedom, which teenagers find very appealing," Stahlman says. "It's a chance to get out of your hometown, see the country and make good money without a college degree."
There are plenty of benefits for fleets, as well, not least of which is easing the hiring shortage. Stahlman believes that with the right training these young drivers could become loyal, long-term employees, too. "They haven't had a chance to fail yet," he says. "If you make them wait until they're 21, they've had three years to feel discouraged and beaten down. But if you can hire them early and show them a long-term career path, they could become very loyal employees."
This is one reason Stahlman supports loosening the requirement that interstate drivers be at least 21 years old. As long as younger drivers receive the right training (the ELDT mandate will help with this) and fleets are willing to help them along the way, he believes 18-20 year-old could be an important part of the future of trucking.
He points to the military as an example of how to train younger drivers. "Militaries around the world have been training 18-year-olds to drive military-grade vehicles in high-stress situations. If you can drive a tank, you can drive a truck."