Managing Generation Gaps for Recruiting and Retaining Drivers


By Jim Angel, Safety Security and Compliance Product Manager, PeopleNet

Part one of a two-part series.

The phrase “generation gap” has evolved from its 1960s origin to describing the differences between Baby Boomers, Generation X (Gen X) and Millennials (Gen Y). While much has been published about their different attitudes, this article is designed to help fleet managers understand how to best incorporate the differences into recruiting younger drivers and managing them to ensure retention in light of an inevitable shortage.

Looming Driver Shortage

With the average age of drivers the same as it was several years ago (53-54) we’re already seeing the effects of retiring Boomers and Gen X’s and Gen Y’s lack of interest in a driving career. Consider the additional impact of stricter medical requirements that the government may decide to impose to limit the negative effects of aging on safety. Boomers who want to keep driving may not be able to.

The competition for drivers of all ages is intensifying. In fact, it’s become a business. Drivers can subscribe to a service that searches for and provides opportunities. When a driver replies that he/she is interested, the service provides a current resume/driving history for the driver to submit. It’s now easier than ever for drivers to keep an eye open for greener pastures.

Recruiting Dilemma

Why is recruiting Gen Xers and Yers so darn difficult? A larger percent of them are college graduates compared with Baby Boomers, accompanied by a perception that they are overqualified for a driving career. I wonder if they understand the contrast between getting a solid financial footing in the short-term with a $65,000 salary behind the wheel vs. $35,000 behind a desk in the overcrowded job market. Further, I doubt they fully grasp the upside potential that experienced drivers with good safety records and the lowest PSP scores actually have — a six-figure salary with medical benefits and stock options. Managed healthcare is closing the salary gap between doctors and drivers. Plus, drivers don’t face the educational debt that physicians typically have.

Aside from a degree, consider the contrast in values that may affect their career decisions. Both younger generations hold quality of life — time with friends and family — dearer than their predecessors. A life on the road takes them away from the lifestyle they aspire to. Additionally, as a result of having been raised in a more indulgent manner, Millennials may harbor a bit of a “silver spoon” attitude.

Recruiting Tactics

In challenging recruiting environments, many companies offer signing bonuses. Some trucking firms are offering cash signing bonuses to boost their recruiting efforts. While cash may be significant to Boomers, consider a bonus that appeals to Generations X’s and Y’s appreciation of technology — maybe a free iPad loaded with all the applications that apply to trucking. The firms with the newest cabs and most current technology will have a leg up on their competitors. Features that speak to a quality work environment and tools that make drivers efficient and reduce tedious paperwork say, “We work harder to get you back home more often, and we respect your technology skills and intelligence.”

Another way to demonstrate respect is honesty. Over promising and under delivering may help get more drivers in the door, but fuels mistrust that is almost impossible to overcome in addition to costly turnover. Painting an honest, real-world picture of the job will help a firm establish the kind of culture that goes a long way in retaining their high-performing drivers.

Technology is an exceptionally strong strategy for making a driving career attractive to Gen X and Y, because it also enables communication and entertainment options that make their work environment more like a “home away from home,” helping to offset negative perceptions. A short list includes: personal email, wi-fi enabled web surfing and a video subscription service.

Part 2: Managing the generational mix for driver retention; mentoring do’s and don’ts

Jim Angel has more than 20 years of experience, including expertise in AOBRD, and EOBR operation, data analysis and problem solving. He currently manages PeopleNet’s safety and compliance product line, which includes eDriver Logs and Fuel Tax.

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