The driver shortage vs. the tech shortage

“Many trucking companies tell me the person they are competing with for drivers isn’t other carriers, it’s the welfare state. Some of that is the function of the social welfare net that some people find it more desirable to sit on the couch and max out on welfare payments, food stamps and unemployment benefits rather than engage in an honorable profession like trucking.”

Those were the words spoken by John Larkin, managing director and head of Transportation Capital Markets Research for Stifel, Nicolaus and Company, at the Truckload Carrier Association (TCA) annual convention in Orlando last week.

Speaking to a full house of fleet executives, Larkin said today’s economy has set up the trucking industry for one of its best growth opportunities in decades.

Manufacturing and construction is growing again, houses are once again being built and consumer products continue to be purchased at record levels.

More trucks are needed and fleets are waving money around to anyone willing to drive them, yet the general public remains sedentary.

The average unemployed person is holding out for the job they want, not the job they can get (or need).

Makes me wonder if the aftermarket isn’t facing the same problem with its technician shortage.

People don’t want to climb under a truck if they can sit at a desk.

But one major hurdle fleets are facing that the aftermarket is not is the travel/stability aspect of their work. Young people don’t see the allure of the open road and time on the highway that previous generations had, or at least tolerated for a paycheck.

The people looking for jobs today want to put in their eight hours then go home.

They want to get back to that couch and that TV program they love so much.

You can offer that.

I think that’s the biggest difference between the driver shortage and the tech shortage.

Fleets may have more cash on hand to try and woo young professionals, but what the aftermarket may lack in marketing dollars it more than makes up for with its job description.

A technician today still turns wrenches, but he also needs to be good with computers. He needs to be comfortable using technology and capable of using the Internet to do his job.

That’s something kids today are salivating to do.

And combined with the stationary security of a technical career – there are no four-day, six-state trips for a truck tech – I think the job openings in the aftermarket today actually cover a lot of young people’s professional wants and desires.

The fact a group of people would prefer welfare to working is scary, terrifying even, but I don’t think that group is the majority.

I think most people are still willing to put in a day’s work for a day’s pay; they just only want to do so for that perfect job.

I think the aftermarket’s openings are lot closer to that than what fleets are offering in their trucks.

And while I still don’t know how we sell that, I think once we figure that out we’ll be able to end this shortage.

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