A pair of Indiana organizations are making a concerted effort to swell the ranks of truck drivers by reaching out to a non-profit and high schoolers.
The Future Leaders of Indiana and Indiana Motor Truck Association recently reached out to the Next Generation in Trucking Association to create a pipeline of upstart truckers to fill the increased need for drivers. Next Generation is a newly minted non-profit on a mission to promote truck driving opportunities to youths who might otherwise not consider the career path. The U.S. struggles with a persistent worker shortfall partially driven by age restrictions and cultural disconnect with young people.
Wide-reaching efforts are being made to close the workforce gap, including freight carriers offering higher wages, sign-on bonuses, retirement packages, and healthcare. But perhaps the greatest impediment hamstringing the industry remains age restrictions. Federal law prevented able-bodied men and women between 18-21 from interstate freight hauling occupations. The DRIVE-Safe Act, currently working its way through Washington, D.C., includes provisions that would allow people in this age bracket to secure jobs as interstate truckers. Industry leaders appear optimistic that change is at hand, and organizations such as Next Generation are already connecting with high school students.
“There’s a lot of other industries represented in career technical education, like construction and woodworking, welding, automotive technology, but the trucking industry is really underrepresented,” Next Generation co-founder Lindsey Trent reportedly said. “There are huge needs within the trucking industry for skilled workers. But there isn’t enough outlets for young people to learn about the trucking industry.”
Next Generation is working to persuade administrators and other officials to start the process of integrating CDL training into technical schools. Successfully engaging high school students about the financial benefits and job security of trucking sector jobs could effectively remove one of the largest obstacles.
“A lot of times we’ll lose those individuals to other career opportunities, other trades, and they don’t really know much about the trucking industry to ever consider coming into it after they’ve already started their career,” Indiana Motor Truck Association vice president Barbara Smithers reportedly said.
Non-college track high school graduates often start careers in other sectors and enjoy job security before reaching 21 years old. This issue has created decades of unnecessary adversity for the freight industry. That’s largely why Next Generation wants to create interest and opportunity beginning in technical high schools with advanced training in community colleges across the country.
“Not only work with high schools here in Indiana, but work with the Lincoln Techs and the Ivy Techs of the world. Ivy Tech is one of the most respected and successful community colleges in the country,” Future Leaders of Indiana vice chair Matt Cavell reportedly said. “There’s no reason why Indiana should not be at the center of this as the Crossroads of America.”
The trucking industry reportedly needs to add upwards of 67,000 CDL professionals by the end of 2022 to keep pace with rising demand. Outreach and career opportunities that start at the high school level could have a positive influence on keeping America’s supply chains running smoothly.