Reading The Age of the Lost Truck and What Companies Can Do made me think about what MORE companies can do. As mentioned, we are slipping in our appreciation for our community of drivers on who we depend. During the Pandemic, these essential workers were the shining star. How do we keep them in the spotlight? We change the stigma and the culture around driving jobs. We make it a career that can earn a wage for drivers to take care of their own. We begin at a young age and instill that this career path is valid. We expose the young to the world of trucking. We make the trucking industry present throughout the younger years and as the child ages. You create an environment that the child is familiar with, and when they are of age to start working, they know that a trucking career is an option because it has been reinforced repeatedly. This exposure has huge benefits for everyone involved.
Kids and Trucks
From a young age, babies are given trucks to play with. The push and pull help develop fine motor skills. The feel of the wheels and the toy’s movement are engaging for all. This is not just a boy’s toy. Girls need to be shown that they are equal in the world of trucks. Trucks are an equal opportunity toy. It teaches science and math, and who doesn’t love playing with a toy truck? As a kid, you know you built ramps and rolled trucks through the sandbox. Embrace those memories.
For many years I worked in Early Childhood Education. I had a classroom with a window right in view of the school’s dumpster for a few years. Every Friday, he came. Every Friday, the children lined up, all of them not just the boys, at the window to watch him. Our trashman cometh. They cheered when he would get out of the truck to open the dumpster doors. Faces pressed against the glass as they watched in amazement as the forks picked up the container and emptied their old papers and food trash. They knew the day he visited and waited patiently those mornings for the distinct sound that a trash truck makes. What an impression to make on such a young person. The joy that piece of machinery and the man who drives it brings is pure.
Trucks in our Communities
As the child ages, it gives new opportunities to show them the world of trucks and how they can play a part in that world. Let’s continue to make that positive truck impression with them. Make visits to the school and let kids explore the cab. Show them that drivers are important to our everyday life. Teach them about logistics–the where and how we get the things we need and the things we want gone. Speak with them in the classroom and show them all the different things truck drivers can do and industries where trucks are needed. Ahem, pretty much every industry. Don’t leave the girls out of the discussion; trucks are an equal opportunity toy leading an equal opportunity career path.
There are so many pictures and videos of various trucks visiting elementary schools when you look. Why? Because it is so exciting for the children. Let’s continue that excitement into the pre-teen years. Continued presence at community and school events creates familiarity and can ignite curiosity to pursue exploration in the trucking industry. That consistent imagery and presence in their lives have an impact even if you can’t see it at this age. Children absorb everything. They saw the importance of truck drivers, especially during the Pandemic, which may encourage and motivate them to be part of the solution to fill the need.
Young Adults and Trucks
A bachelor’s degree is not for everyone. College right after high school is not for everyone. A career in a trade industry can have a huge impact. With the high demand for drivers, there are plenty of opportunities to continue learning and educating yourself, even if it’s not behind a desk. A commercial license opens up a lot of doors for the next generation. This is a career that is necessary for the function of our country. We learned real quick that drivers are needed to bring us the things we need and take away what we don’t. We need to change the stigma of college being the only option after high school in which you can earn a wage to support yourself. With the new infrastructure bill, drivers as young as 18 can begin a driving apprenticeship. This is a great option and one that should seem familiar after all the years of reinforcing the trucking industry with young people. On-the-job training benefits both the driver and employer. When companies invest in training their employees, the likelihood of that employee staying with the company increases. This leads to driver retention if you maintain that same level of training and follow up once the driver has passed the apprenticeship stage.
Building a Culture
People are conditioned to want to be part of something. A culture where trade schools and driving trucks are seen as equal to attending college needs to happen. There will be an even bigger dip in drivers if we don’t get to them now, no matter what age. An impression on a baby seeing a truck can be just as impactful as a recent high school graduate searching for a career where they belong. We can create that inclusion in the driving industry just like colleges have on campus. We need to see these individuals and put them in the same light as we put college attendees. Just take a look at a recent survey we conducted of 5,000 waste and recycling driver applicants. We all need to be given a chance to make a difference in a world that views all careers as equal. We all depend deeply on each other. Everyone should have a chance to develop in a career that makes them happy, that can support them financially, and provides an opportunity to grow.