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Trucking companies should invest in tech to lure Gen Z workers, experts say

With the U.S. workforce slowly undergoing a change from baby boomers to a labor pool full of Generation Z workers, attracting and retaining candidates can be challenging for employers, especially trucking companies.

Truck driving is a hard profession and is often a job of last resort for many workers, but leveraging technology to attract younger employees is something almost any company can do, said Jamison Craig, head of growth-North America at Quincus, a Singapore-based software-as-a-service platform for logistics.

Craig said many carriers are still using outmoded methods for such things as route optimization, communications and even updates on wait times at loading docks.

“I’ve talked to friends of mine who are local carriers, particularly the independent contractors for some of the big brands that do ground service, and their systems are so antiquated right now,” Craig told FreightWaves. “An example of antiquated methods is route optimization routing: They’re literally in a break room on a laminated map, routing their deliveries for the day.”

Antiquated tools for communicating with drivers are also problematic, Craig said.

“Some companies still use these ad hoc pickups; they have no way to communicate to the driver,” Craig said. “So once a driver, like a small parcel ground driver, comes back to the terminal, they say, ‘Hey, you know what, you need to go back out there and do these other pickups because we just couldn’t get the communication to you. That’s frustrating, and that can cause some turnover there as well.”

Where have all the truck drivers gone?

Trucking companies around the globe are facing staffing challenges, according to the International Road Transport Union (IRU), which said that around 20% of all professional truck driving jobs are unfilled worldwide. The IRU is an organization that represents the global trucking/transportation industry.

The U.S. trucking industry is currently facing a shortage of around 80,000 drivers, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA).

To keep up with increasing freight demand across the U.S. over the next decade, trucking companies will need to recruit about 1 million new drivers, said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello.

“The industry is raising pay at five times the historic average, but this isn’t just a pay issue,” Costello said in a release. “We have an aging workforce, a workforce that is overwhelmingly male, and finding ways to address those issues is key to narrowing the shortage.”

The average age of a truck driver is currently just over 47 years old, according to the ATA. The industry currently has about 2 million drivers, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.

Although the word “millennial” has become synonymous with almost any younger person, Pew Research Center defines millennials as those born between 1981 and 1996. Anyone born from 1997 on is part of Gen Z.

Gen Z and millennials now make up nearly half (46%) of the full-time workforce in the U.S., according to a 2021 study by Gallup.

Millennials and Gen Z are “digital natives”

Spencer Barkoff, co-founder and president of Relay Payments, said Gen Z workers are “digital natives” because they have grown up with mobile technology.

“They expect to have well-developed technology solutions to control all aspects of the services they use, and they aren’t patient with clunky processes,” Barkoff told FreightWaves. “However, 95% of truck drivers today have smartphones, it’s not just Gen Z workers that are demanding innovation in how they conduct their day-to-day business. Technology can help both increase efficiency and quality of life for the existing driver community while also helping to recruit the next generation of drivers.”

Atlanta-based Relay Payments is a fintech company building a digital payment network for the transportation, logistics and supply chain industries.

“Like any other line of work, drivers want to maximize their ROI and often leave the industry due to antiquated processes that result in lost revenue or unmanageable costs,” Barkoff said. “As a result, carriers that can eliminate driver frustration have a real advantage in recruiting and retaining talent.”

Barkoff said many trucking companies are still relying on drivers to fill out paperwork manually, often making them wait hours for payments to clear, “resulting in longer wait times at docks and truckstops instead of being out on the road.”

“Many drivers often end up stranded on the side of the road because they can’t find safe, overnight parking along their route,” Barkoff said. “Technology such as what we’re building can dramatically improve the driver experience, helping them to easily locate parking along their route and issue instant payments that get them back out on the road. 

Craig said trucking companies can address route optimization, wait times and delays by investing in fleet management software programs, along with technology such as dash cams, sensors for trailers, fluid maintenance and tire pressure.

The technology is applicable to large fleets, smaller trucking companies, as well as independent contractors, Craig said.

“Regardless of the size of the fleet, the technology is there,” he said.

Watch: FreightWaves’ carrier update for May 16.

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Carriers should invest in technology to attract Gen Z workers, experts say