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During the past year, I have in my role as leader of a large, publicly traded trucking fleet interviewed numerous highly skilled candidates for positions with our company. Unfortunately, several removed themselves from consideration out of hesitancy about joining the industry. While each candidate’s story was different, what they had in common was a perceived lack of acceptance of diversity, and dearth of opportunity in our industry for people of varied backgrounds.
Today, young professionals are not focused exclusively on the job with the highest pay. Yes, they’re searching for opportunities that offer professional challenges, but they’re also seeking out employers that provide opportunities to work alongside people who share their philosophies, and in a place where they can feel welcomed for who they are without fear of hate or discrimination.
Today’s young people want to live and work in diverse and inclusive communities, and are looking for companies that share that vision.
When I look at our industry, I see positive characteristics and opportunity for growth for all. However, as a heterosexual white male I recognize that my perspective is often much different from someone who is female, gay, trans, Black, Asian, or Latinx.
In fact, during the past year I have been listening to individuals in these and other groups about their experiences with the trucking industry. I was unaware of the pain among these groups borne of the belief that they lack a voice or opportunity in trucking. Worse yet, some feel plainly discriminated against.
I can address these issues within my company, but it is the responsibility of all trucking leaders to look out for our industry. We have arrived at a crucial moment for its future.
To enact real change, industry leaders must acknowledge these problems and develop solutions. It will take time, but it’s an investment worth making.
Change won’t come easy. It will require uncomfortable conversations, and a commitment to challenging long-held opinions from the past. We must face the fact that in many ways our industry is trailing others. It’s time to play catch-up.
Trucking is often diverse in frontline and entry-level positions, but lack diversity at the management, executive, and board levels. Some might contend there are few qualified applicants for executive-level jobs for which they’d hire a minority candidate, but that’s not good enough. We must start directly and intentionally tailoring and opening opportunities for minority candidates to build a career in trucking, at all levels within our organizations. If we don’t start making this a priority, we’ll continue to fall behind peer industries on staffing diverse leadership.
At U.S. Xpress, we have established a Diversity & Inclusion Council led by team members who represent various groups. From this effort, we’ve developed employee resource groups that facilitate open dialogue about issues affecting women, the LGBTQ+ community and military veterans.
I ask all trucking leaders to start down a path of exploration. Begin by engaging with team members from minority groups within your organization, and listen to them. Ask them how they view the openness and inclusion within our industry. Listen to their concerns and frustrations. Put yourself in their shoes. Think about the advantages that you have and how different their experiences are than yours. Embrace the reality of why their experiences are different.
Trucking and logistics leaders large and small must begin cultivating a culture more accepting of others. As an industry, we’ll struggle to attract the talent we need to compete in a global economy if we don’t start having these conversations, and enacting real change.
Eric Fuller is president and CEO of U.S. Xpress Enterprises Inc. U.S. Xpress ranks No. 21 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America, and No. 47 on the TT Top 50 list of the largest logistics companies.
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