Long haul trucking, like the rest of the transportation industry, is feeling the pinch of the driver shortage. Companies are doing all they can to attract long haul truck drivers — from sign-on bonuses, to guaranteed pay, to wellness plans. Others are hiring recruiting companies or spewing print and digital ads at every opportunity.
Many companies’ driver recruiting materials showcase shiny new equipment. Sometimes they show off the smiling faces of drivers (usually the most attractive drivers the world has ever seen). But one thing that isn’t displayed as often are the insides of a company’s trucks and their aesthetics.
With long haul drivers spending up to five days inside their truck cab, you better believe the look and feel of their “home away from home” is important. Practicality and comfort matter of course, but so does visual appeal. This may seem vain or trivial at first blush, but hear me out.
A millennial long haul truck driver will have an intense appreciation for where he works and how it makes him feel. These young drivers seek out experiences and employment that make them feel significant — and they are hungry to be able to make something their own and be proud of it. How your trucks make drivers feel affects how they feel about your company — your employer brand. And your brand is defined by those gut feelings.
In the industry at large, younger workers are finding it less appealing to be a “trucker” as they picture it through the lens of their cultural imagination. Trucking used to have a rugged, cowboy appeal (think "Smokey and the Bandit"), but that’s no longer the type of individual we’re trying to attract. (A fleet made up of cowboys and bandits isn’t the safest, for one thing.)
When you say “trucking” to a millennial, that mental image may contain dingy, dark vehicles, concrete, and traffic, and not mention (forgive me for this) overweight men in cut-off shirts. But this picture doesn’t have to stay this way. When looking at your recruiting materials, you want that 20- or 30-something driver to be able to picture themselves sitting in one of your trucks, happy and fulfilled.
Millennials gravitate toward travel and adventure, partially due to having grown up in age of technology that has expanded their sense of a “global village.” This generation is more visual than its predecessors, and this includes how millennials build their value systems and how they communication with each other.
So what does this mean to a motor carrier? As a company, you can improve the look and feel of your cabins and show them off as a place to be proud of and to feel professional and adventurous in. This is why aesthetics matter.
The seat of a truck is a place from which you can see the entire country in the course of a week. The long haul from coast to coast can be talked about in terms of travel and experience, where an individual gets to see parts of the country that people in a desk job wouldn’t even dream of.
To reinforce this message, perhaps encourage your drivers to take pictures of beautiful things they see while on the road (safely, of course!) and share them with their families back home or on social media where they can be admired. You could encourage your drivers to collect small and unusual souvenirs from each state they pass through and show off this collection somewhere at the main office.
Paint a new picture for the next generation of long haul truck drivers, and get that picture out there as much as you can. It’s a non-traditional idea, but when the game gets tough, you change it.