Millennials and Trucking?? Absolutely!!

 
 

Ah the millennials….what are we going to do with that unconstrained, unattached, idealistic, tech savvy group of 19-35 year olds that now comprise the nation’s largest living generation? 1) Embrace their ways 2) Demonstrate to them that the trucking industry pretty much meets every one of their requirements.

With the amount of regulations put on our industry and the speed in which technology is changing things I’d say our industry as a whole is a pretty flexible bunch so task number 1 is covered just remember “Because that’s how we’ve always done it” is not in the millennial vernacular. So don’t use it!

So let’s concentrate on the second task. How can we (the collective trucking industry “we”) demonstrate to this uniquely different group that our industry is actually really very cool? It’s quite simple really, let’s showcase just how our industry fits their personality traits (or at least the traits as defined by a variety of sources).

Here’s what we know. We know this group is the highest educated of any generation. But sadly, they are also more in debt at a young age than any other generation. And because of this debt, many live with their parents well into their 20’s.

They like “experiences” more than “things”. It’s that unconstrained, unattached part of them. If given the choice between getting a raise or getting more vacation days I believe most millennials would choose the ladder (don’t quote me on that, it’s just my personal opinion!) For those that can afford to live outside of the parental fold they are choosing to rent versus own…and not because they can’t afford it (which they can’t) but because they don’t want to be tied down to a house and the landlord will take care of the maintenance for them (which is extremely vital for a generation that is sadly lacking in mechanical skills!) This generation is waiting longer to marry, they feel little to no attachment to a community/religion/politics and they like change.

And we all know they are very technologically savvy. These technology natives (yes, we old-timers are the immigrants) are well connected with the world around them. Their social interactions may not be the face-to-face communication style the other generations like (shoot, I’d even be happy if they were better with the voice-to-voice interaction) but that’s all a part of accepting who this generation is and working with it.

I believe most millennials would love to work from home, walk to the local sandwich shop for lunch (which also has great craft beer for happy hour) and occassionally stop into the office to meet with the “higher ups” and to satisfy the need for commaraderie and water cooler talk (they may do most of their communicating with their thumbs but they still like human contact!).  Most of all, this generation loves the idea of owning a business and being their own boss.

To sum it up, Millennials (or at least my take on them) don’t like to stay put, they love experiences, they want to work, live and play in the same place and they are comfortable communicating via technology. So now I ask my friends and colleagues in the trucking industry what job have I just described?

 Yep. A truck driver.

How else can you travel the country gathering “experiences” of a lifetime, work/live/play all in the same place, pay off your student loans while getting out from under your parents’ roof and if you do it right (and have the desire) your chances of owning a business (ie. a truck) and becoming your own boss are pretty damn high. And for those that don’t want that extreme of a nomadic lifestyle just think of all the other opportunities that await in trucking. Having experienced the the good, bad and the ugly from the drivers seat just think what could be done with that knowledge?! Write new software to help improve the movement of goods, build a new piece of hardware that saves fuel, become an HR director that understands what it takes to be a driver, become a dispatcher that knows what it’s like to be on the other side…the possibilities are endless!

So here’s my cry to the Millennials (and a cry that should be shouted from the mouth of every driver recruiter) “Quit being an overeducated underpaid barista living at home with a pile of debt and get out there, see the country and learn about an industry that employs one out of 16 Americans (most of which are soon to be retiring baby boomers so the job opportunities are endless!) Oh and it only takes two months of training to become a truck driver (and many companies will pay back your cost of going through CDL school!)

Talking Vehicles…. Safe or Dangerous?

I’m here at the Fleet Technology Expo learning (and talking, of course) about all aspects of tech on wheels. The future of transportation technology is quite fascinating and I could probably write pages on what I’ve heard thus far but after listening to Tim Johnson of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration I’m going to focus on talking vehicles. Yep, talking vehicles!

I’m not talking a Siri /KITT hybrid that talks to the driver I’m talking cars and trucks that share information with each other. Otherwise known as V2V (vehicle to vehicle) communication. This technology can play an absolutely enormous role in improving highway safety. Think about it…the car in front tells the car behind “slam on your brakes NOW because I just did!” or the truck heading east passes a westbound truck and says “hey, the roads are slick back there, my ESC – electronic stability control - activated so be aware”. 

All really very cool and absolutely feasible but here’s my concern (and one in which I chose the opportunity to outright ask of Mr. Johnson) SPECTRUM. Yep, that FCC controlled air space that is worth more than gold! Back in the late 90’s V2V technology was given a 5.9GHz Safety Spectrum. A short-range communication spectrum meant solely for intelligent transportation. The cable /cell phone/Wi-Fi guys got their own spectrum. The 5.9GHz spectrum was ours. But now the cable guys want it and frightening of frightening the FCC is actually considering giving them some. Or even worse, trying to figure out how the space can be “shared”!!

Now I’m no computer geek (far from it actually) but I do know enough to know that if ImaHackerThatWantsToWreakSomeHavoc can sip coffee on the patio of the local coffee shop using free Wi-Fi (which used to only work inside the shop but now that the FCC has opened up the 5.9GHz short range spectrum the coffee shop can happily offer Wi-Fi to customers way out on the patio) I can probably without too much difficulty tap into the communication system of a car/truck passing by. They are sharing the same spectrum after all…. ever suddenly heard your neighbor talking from their baby monitor to yours??? It happens.  But our hacking havoc wreaker isn’t cooing to a newborn, he’s telling the car that just drove by to suddenly slam on its brakes or accelerate through the intersection. And if you really want to get scary, he’s tapping into the “connected” communication system of that truck and routing it to the nearest playground at top speeds….

Mr. Johnson answered my question by saying “yes, it was a very good question and yes they realize it’s a very important issue and that NHTSA does its best to convey this to the FCC.” But that was it. In the end I wonder who will win out?? The big pocketed cable/Wi-Fi/phone guys that are willing to pay for it now or the suppliers of the connected vehicle movement (automotive AND trucking) that are inches away from truly making the connected vehicle a reality? Technologically the connected vehicle is already feasible, it’s the public acceptance that’s the problem (sure, I might be willing to let my car parallel park for me but I’m not so sure I’m ready for it to do all the driving). 

If the FCC lets the public have access to the 5.9GHz Safety Spectrum that is supposed to be JUST for intelligent transportation systems then I can pretty much guarantee you the idea of a truly connected vehicle movement will be dead in the water. Just as I’m not a computer geek I’m also not a politician, but if I were a supplier of one of the plethora of connected technologies being introduced, I would put my gloves on and start fighting or in the very least become educated on this issue and not get blindsided by the FCC.

Food for thought! Now back to the exhibit hall!

Trucking Just Might Become “Sexy” After All

 

Having just returned from my twenty third American Trucking Associations MCE conference I am struck by the sense that trucking is right on the edge of becoming a cool, hip (or as I like to say, “sexy”) industry. We’ve got a perfect storm of technology, youth and new leadership mixed with industry veterans and all I can say is if we (the collective “we” of trucking) continue on the same path I witnessed this week then I can almost all but guarantee that by my 30th MCE, trucking will no longer have an image problem.

At my first show in 1993 I was the “youth” and GPS and OBC were the new buzzwords. The show floor held trucks from every OEM along with parts and accessories, some service companies and a small little sprinkling of these new onboard computer “Big Brother” companies. Technology was breathing new life into the industry. Truck drivers were testing all this cool new technology that would eventually go mainstream (they were texting and using GPS guided routes while the rest of us were still using pagers and map books).

All in all I would say it was an exciting time for trucking! Throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s we saw an incredible number of technology companies entering the market. Flip through an exhibitor list from back then and you’ll see what I mean. Some of those companies made it and are still with us today, but many did not.

But then we stalled and the show floor was just “same old thing, different day.” On the exhibitor list you’d maybe see a handful of new names, and at the show there might have been a couple of new devices on the market but nothing really exciting and cool. Even the general sessions, which were informative, were not really “buzz worthy”.

But not this year! This year the buzzwords are “autonomous” and “connected vehicle”. There were at least 20 new companies, a handful of brand new technologies and a new ATA Executive Director who strongly believes in technology and wants to make sure we are part of the conversation - developmentally, socially and politically.

Also important for our industry there was youth! Silicon Valley, tennis shoe wearing, technology using, speak-up and share millennials were present in record numbers. There were a lot of new faces at the Image Committee meeting, wandering the show floor and attending the sessions. They listen and ask questions and they participate.

So the next time you see one of these young new start-ups take a moment to say hi, ask them questions and answer theirs, invite them to the table and help educate them on our industry. We need their intelligence, vibrancy and the technology they bring with them to go from an oft ignored and bad-mouthed industry to a hip, cool and “sexy” industry. Odds are once we get them hooked they will become equally passionate about our industry and will likely never leave (just like this California girl who just two years out of college found herself explaining the meaning of GPS to a room of truckers and twenty three years later is still here and has no intention of going anywhere else).