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May 16, 2017 11:30 AM, EDT

Recruiting Minority Drivers Key to Reshaping Trucking's Image, Demographer Says

Gronbach via Transplace

AUSTIN, Texas — The trucking industry needs to increase driver pay, change the image of the profession and hire more minority job seekers to mitigate the driver shortage, a demographer told transportation executives.

“Driver shortage? Here’s what you do: Improve the image of truck drivers,” Ken Gronbach, a demographer and futurist, recently told executives attending the Transplace Shipper Symposium.

And because 17% of the U.S. population is Latino and 13% African-American, Gronbach said, the industry needs to recruit more minority drivers, a sizable and largely untapped potential pool of drivers.

“If you’re not employing these people, you don’t understand,” Gronbach said. “Right now, you’re getting your drivers from a very, very small group that is currently 33 to 52 years old.”

But there is a bright spot, Gronbach said. Because the cab of a truck looks more like a video game than a big rig, there is a potential natural attraction to the younger generation of tech-savvy job seekers.

“People precipitate economics,” he said. “It’s not the other way around. Let your shipping and logistics business decision be a product of understanding people.”

The basis for most of Gronbach’s predictions involves applying basic math to differing populations. “Once you understand the numbers, it all falls in place,” he said. “Large groups of people are very, very predictable. There are things that we do that belong to our stages of life.”

For example, Gronbach said, many motorcycle retailers failed to see a trend of a declining number of baby boomers. In 1986, motorcycles were great sellers; but by 1992, sales had declined by 80%, when a new generation of younger consumers came of age.

“Once the baby boomers exited that very narrow demographics, it was over,” Gronbach said. “The generation behind them was too small.”

With more consumers buying online, Gronbach said, good times are ahead for shippers.

“Shipping, shipping, shipping, big time,” he said, “heading your way, right at you.”

He also said there is a shortage of shipping managers, which will spell security for the existing executive force.

“Generation X is 33 to 52 years old,” Gronbach said. “You’re in short supply. If you’re in management, you have a job for life.”

Other trends Gronbach forecast:

With a significant shortage of structures, a housing boom is on the horizon.

China’s past one-child policy has stunted the country’s population growth and is going to hurt its future economy.

By 2050 to 2060, the world’s population will increase to 12 billion from 7 billion currently, but the rate of population growth is slowing.

Despite dire global predictions of a lack of space and food by some, there will be enough food to feed the world. The problem is, half of our food supply is wasted.

Women are increasingly taking over many leadership positions in the United States. Shipping and trucking are largely “a guy’s industry” but won’t stay that way much longer. “They’re going to run things,” he said.