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November 13, 2020 12:30 PM, EST

Electric Trucks Have Qualities to Improve Diversity, Panelists Say

Jessie LundJessie Lund by Transport Topics

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The growing world of electric truck operations offers an opportunity to increase diversity in the industry, experts addressing the Women In Trucking Association’s annual conference said.

Electric trucks can play a role in addressing the perennial challenge of attracting and retaining drivers, including young people, one of the speakers said Nov. 12 during a session of the virtual conference.

Jessie Lund, senior associate at the Rocky Mountain Institute, said electric trucks may be attractive to young people, as 80% of millennials and Generation Z want government agencies and businesses to make greater efforts to care for the environment.

Emily Conway

Emily Conway by Transport Topics

“Multiple studies have found that young folks in this country really believe in the need to protect the environment and expect their businesses and employers to do their part to do so,” said Lund, whose nonprofit organization aims to promote energy and resource efficiency.

“As we see more and more electric trucks entering the market, we expect that to attract a more diverse group of candidates for the trucking industry,” Lund added.

The industrywide truck driver shortage has ranked No. 1 on the American Transportation Research Institute’s Top Industry Issues list four years in a row.

Also, because of the coronavirus pandemic, Lund said the number of people obtaining commercial driver licenses is expected to drop.

In addition to reduced noise, Lund said drivers have reported comfort in the cabs of electric trucks and the absence of a “diesel headache” at the end of shifts.

Growth in regional haul operations, due in part to the rise of e-commerce and the need for immediate delivery, represents a shift that means more drivers are likely to be home on a regular basis, Lund said. This shift may make trucking more attractive to young people also, she said.

Denise Rondini

Denise Rondini by Transport Topics

In addition to improving the driver experience, electric trucks can benefit the communities they serve. Lund said air pollution resulting from trucks has consequences on communities that live near highways and industrial districts with lots of warehouses. Also, she said the “return-to-base operations” model is good for building out charging and fueling infrastructure.

Emily Conway, fleet sustainability manager at PepsiCo Inc., said many trucking-related and industry positions should be considered.

“I think transportation can kind of be seen as a single-trick pony, but there’s so many opportunities in transportation beyond just being a driver,” Conway said.

Denise Rondini, president of Rondini Communications, urged companies to review their recruiting materials and make sure they’re not excluding people by using solely male pronouns. At the start of her 38-year career in the trucking industry, Rondini said people would confuse her for someone’s spouse at events.

“Language is powerful,” Rondini said. “Words matter. Look at the language you use. If they’re all male pronouns, it subconsciously sends a message.”

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