From Leah’s Desk: How to Get More Young Drivers Behind the Wheel


Let’s talk about recruiting for different age cohorts. Right now, the average age of a trucker is 38 for new entrants and 54 for an experienced driver, according to NTI Carrier data. As baby boomers and older Gen Xers border on retirement, it behooves recruiters to move their focus to Millennials and Gen Z.

But who exactly are those younger prospects, anyway? Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, while anyone born between 1997 and 2012 falls into the category of Gen Z. These two age categories make up the bulk of the workforce today. And they’re the ones we need to start focusing recruiting efforts on. Successfully bringing them into the fold is going to look a little different than it did with previous generations.

This topic comes up with increasing frequency in the presentations that I give. Each generation has different preferences, communication styles, and visions of career success. Baby boomers, for example, love having conversations, sharing a meal, giving advice, and of course, having their career advancement recognized in a paycheck. They value loyalty. Gen X cares a LOT about professionalism and achievement. They want to collaborate with their colleagues and be mentors to younger workers. Together, these two cohorts make up 80% of drivers on the road today.

Next up, we’ve got Millennials. This group came of age during the turn of the century and boy, does their vantage point look different from where they’re sitting. Growing up, they absorbed the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the financial meltdown of 2007-2009, and now the economic hit that resulted from Covid lockdowns. This has all impacted their perspective in a myriad of ways. For our purposes, the most important takeaway is that their loyalty to a company is not a given. Time was when you found a good job, worked hard at it, and moved up the ranks. These kids aren’t doing that. Instead, it’s the employer who has to earn their allegiance.

Finally there’s Gen Z. They may not have graduated during the financial crisis, but they’ve watched others shoulder it, which might explain why they tend to be risk averse, independent-minded, and conscious of their finances.

Independence, financial awareness, valuing appreciation…is it just me, or would those traits make them excellent truck drivers? Both Millennials and Gen Z employees want to work hard, but only in return for recognition and career advancement. Neither group is content to punch a clock, go through the motions, and expect a raise in two years.

There’s an upside to this: young recruits are ready to find a role that they can grow into. They might demand more upfront in terms of career development and incentives, but ultimately, they are looking for something they can stick with. If you have a plan to earn their loyalty, they just might decide to stick with your company forever.

Now, it’s a question of bringing these young whippersnappers into the fold. As you may have guessed, traditional methods aren’t going to cut it. Millennials and Gen Z are tech-savvy. Getting on their radar means modernizing the recruiting process to onboard them quickly and reduce barriers to employment. It also means using text campaigns and social media. That’s where they spend their time, and it’s where they’ll be looking. So, check in with yourself. When was the last time you made a change to your recruiting practices? If your HR department hasn’t tried anything new since the 70s, it might be time for a makeover.

What won’t be as efficacious? Phone calls. In fact, according to one survey, 75% of Millennials would rather converse over text than take a phone call. Given Gen Z’s proclivity for technology, I expect that trend to continue. Recruiting is never going to be completely free of phone calls, but we should expect them to become less central as HR departments focus on younger recruits.

Finally, technology might be what catches an applicant’s attention, but what will keep it is the career path. Nobody wants to feel like a cog in a wheel at work, but for younger prospects, the desire for advancement is even stronger. Both Millennials and Gen Z applicants gravitate towards companies that provide a defined career path. They want to hit milestones and they want to be recognized and celebrated for doing so. In short, the firms that recruit most successfully will be the ones who make applicants feel inspired.

Happy Recruiting!

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On the first Thursday of every month, NTI President & CEO Leah Shaver, aka the Sunshine Girl, goes live on air on SiriusXM Channel 146, Road Dog Trucking, to talk with drivers about all things pay. From paycheck questions to working with fleets on resolving issues around compensation, HR and legal, life on the road, and relationships with their employers, Payday on Road Dog Live dives into topics drivers care about most.

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