Redefining The “Typical” Truck Driver


Who is a “typical” truck driver in the United States today? The answer to that question is shifting, and The National Transportation Institute is excited to see new trends emerge.

A driver shortage has plagued the trucking industry for years, and it became particularly acute in 2020 and 2021. There’s a myriad of challenges to keep drivers in the seat today between the state of the economy and an ongoing pandemic.

Everybody is feeling the effects of these difficulties – recruiters, trucking executives, and the customers we serve. Even the general populace is contending with shortages and longer delivery times precipitated in part by the current capacity crunch.

Suffice to say, recruiting best practices are a hot topic these days. One offshoot of those conversations, though, is the discussion about demographics. How many times have we heard that the typical truck driver is predominantly white, male, and middle aged?

Now, that’s because most drivers today do fall into those demographic categories. Check out this Census article from 2019, describing who’s behind the wheel. White, male, and middle aged, check check, check.

We at The National Transportation Institute have zero problems with anyone in those categories. We’ve got nothing but love for drivers of all shapes and sizes. But focusing too much on these populations could be a distraction from other demographics, which are a growing part of trucking.

In 2021, we’re seeing a shift in the groups of people who choose a trucking career and it’s something that we’re excited about.

The American Trucking Associations’ Trucking Trends report has some insights into the typical truck driver in 2021. According to the ATA, racial minorities made up 42.3% of truck drivers last year. Women accounted for 7.8% of drivers, an all time high.

This corroborates with trends in our own data. In 2019, The National Transportation Institute tallied that women made up 7.89% of drivers. As of now, the National Transportation Institute forecasts that women will comprise just under 10% of drivers at our next count.

Another demographic that is in for a shakeup, in our opinion, is age. Between the Drive-Safe Act snaking its way through Congress and the efforts of the Next Generation in Trucking Association to reach this untapped market, we expect to see an influx of drivers under 25.

With trucking demographics shaking up as much as they are, we expect that soon there will no longer be one type of “typical” truck driver. Which means that it would behoove recruiters to advertise in a way that reflects a changing market. How do you do that?

So glad you asked! Recruiting drivers in the future will involve a combination of new and time-tested tactics.

First, we recommend that companies diversify their marketing images and language. If you’re mostly using pictures of your long-tenured drivers, likely to primarily be older white men, we recommend mixing it up! Include images of different ages and races and tenure in your marketing materials to make your company relatable to all possible recruits. Don’t shy away from recognizing women and newly tenured drivers, either! Remember, you attract what you reflect.

We also recommend using the National Survey of Driver Wages provided by The National Transportation Institute, so that you can align your pay packages to the “new” typical truck driver.

If you really want to pull out the stops, you could strive for recognition as a Certified Top Pay Carrier. Companies who achieve this distinction have additional credibility with new prospective drivers and tell us that it strengthens an already elite organization.

Driver demographics are seeing a sea of change right now. Fortunately, we’ve got data to help your company adapt. Tailoring your compensation and benefits to appeal to all demographics can give you a big boost with prospective drivers.

The typical trucker of yesteryear is disappearing, as more demographics turn to a driving career. This presents huge opportunities for the companies who play their cards right. Schedule a call today to market yourself at the top of the pile.

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