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September 9, 2019 3:15 PM, EDT

Perspective: A Blueprint to Attract Younger Drivers

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Certain professions — the military, health care, law enforcement — attract motivated young people because they combine intrinsic rewards with optimizing technology to teach important skills. As Congress and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration weigh programs to put young drivers on the road, now is the perfect time to consider how the trucking industry can use similar recruitment and training tactics.

Let’s stick with the example of the military. Young people sign up to join the military due, at least in part, to intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is driven by internally felt rewards. In other words, an individual feels motivation to engage in a behavior that naturally is satisfying to them. In the case of the military, intrinsic motivation can include a sense of service, meaningfulness, choice, competence and progress.

Young people who choose truck driving also may have a conviction to learn and succeed. The industry can recruit them by highlighting similar intrinsic factors to military service. These intrinsic motivations can include flexibility, adaptation, responsiveness, innovation, learning and satisfaction.

When recruiting young drivers to trucking, one appealing intrinsic factor can be the goal of self-management. Self-management is about finding the self-control and mastery needed to take control of one’s work habits, including time, workflow and communications. Smart recruiters will realize that self-management can be an intrinsic factor for young drivers, and trucking provides plenty of opportunities to work independently as well as interdependently.

Laura McMillian

McMillan

Students also may be compelled by the importance of trucking to the United States, as trucks move roughly 71.5% of the nation’s freight. According to a recent study released by American Trucking Associations, the U.S. trucking industry generated $700.3 billion in economic activity in 2017 — a 3.5% increase compared with the previous year. Practical students will be motivated by the opportunities in a thriving industry that is integral to the American economy.

Technology-enabled training tools also can help attract younger drivers. As the military has learned and leveraged effectively, 18- to 20-year-olds are very technology-friendly. Technology is appealing to younger people, who more readily accept and adopt both the systems as well as the learning objectives and content that are used to present key concepts. Appealing trucking industry technology trends can include semi-autonomous vehicles, driver-facing cameras, dash cams, trucker workflow apps, eco-smart electric trucks and electronic logging.

Technology can similarly be used as an appealing teaching tool. For example, part of the military’s success in training young soldiers to safely operate complex equipment in difficult environments comes from the use of simulation technologies. The military has a long history of introducing virtual simulations to prepare soldiers for routine and combat scenarios. Flight simulators, tank simulators and ballistics simulation exercises have been credited for saving lives by putting soldiers in mock situations where they can practice applying skills in a safe setting. Similarly, trucking has access to ground simulators, which emulate the physical controls and performance of a tractor as well as other configurations. Any training program geared to young drivers should make use of these technologies so young truck drivers will be effectively prepared to avoid or manage real-world emergency situations.

Technology also helps attract and prepare younger drivers by delivering content in a learner-centric mode. In other words, it enables them to complete courses at their own pace and review material on-demand after formal training ends. Blended learning (that is, instructor-led, hands-on training combined with online learning) yields even greater workplace performance results and appeals to younger learners. There have been several studies and reports over the past 15 years that have concluded a blend of learning methods is better than any single learning delivery method on its own, regardless of content. One study, the Thomson NETg Job Impact Study in 2003, showed that blended learning methods increased mastery of skills. The research found that regardless of the specific instructional objectives, a well-designed blended learning solution focused on real-world scenarios improved overall on-the-job performance over nonblended learning.

Given the current driver shortage, Congress and FMCSA have been considering ways to involve and train younger drivers. The DRIVE-Safe Act has been proposed in Congress to allow training of 18- to 20-year-old drivers, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been weighing a pilot program for individuals aged 18-20 to drive commercial motor vehicles interstate. As opportunities for young people in the trucking industry seem poised to grow, it’s time for the industry to seek inspiration for how to attract them.

Laura McMillan, vice president of Training Development at Instructional Technologies Inc., has significant experience in the transportation and logistics industries, including training management positions at Roehl Transport and Schneider National.