Friday, September 08, 2006

Mommy, is Grandma a trucker?

An article in the Wall Street Journal (no link because you need a subscription to read it) by Stephanie Chen describes how trucking companies are trying to hire older couples to drive their big rigs together:

Faced with a worsening shortage of long-haul truck drivers, freight carriers are turning to the RV generation, aggressively recruiting older couples like the Fords to climb behind the wheel. Schneider National Inc., the Green Bay, Wis., company that hired the Fords and put them through driving school, fishes for applicants through AARP, the advocacy group for people 50 and older, and has a Web page for "mature workers." This fall, the American Trucking Association plans a billboard and television ad blitz to lure older drivers."We just thought if Ma and Pa can drive the Winnebago, maybe they can drive the 18-wheeler," says Tim Lynch, a senior vice president at the trade group...

The hiring binge has dramatically increased the number of husband-and-wife driving teams, and truck makers are trying to make their big rigs feel more like rolling homes away from home. Paccar Inc.'s Kenworth Truck Co. unit introduced a new model in March with leather beds and heated seats. Volvo Trucks North America, part of AB Volvo, has begun production of trucks with a full-size bed in the cab comfortable for couples.

Why do you think trucking companies are facing a shortage of workers? Other than their penchant for driving RVs, why target older couples?


Anonymous said...

According to the U.S. Truck Driver Shortage: Analysis and Forecasts article prepared by the Global Insight, Inc. for American Trucking Associations in May 2005 ('shortage%20of%20truck%20drivers'), the truck driver shortage is not a new issue as the economic boom of the 1990s caused a major problem for trucking firms in attracting and retaining a labor force. This problem was alleviated slightly when the 2000-2001 recession launched a new era of downturn in the trucking industry. The decreased demand for trucking services meant less drivers were needed, so lack in the labor force was not felt as strongly. However, as the economy has rebuilt, the shortage has returned with new force. The shortage in truck drivers can be attributed to many causes such as driver retirements (how many years can a person possibly drive cross-country at all hours for most of the year?), occupation shifts of the drivers, and transfers within the industry. After September 11th and with the new state of world affairs, people are less interested in taking jobs that will cause them to be away from their families for long periods of time. Therefore, I think the idea of targeting older couples is great and should prove to be pretty successful. Not only will these people most likely be retirees done with their primary occupations and ready for life on the open road, but, by targeting couples, the missing link to family will be filled. These couples would have grown children and, as Chen’s article points out, would be setting out for a tour of the country in a RV or Winnebago anyway. Why not put these travelers to good use? The incentives of the leather beds and heated seats would give these big rigs more of a home on wheels feel that would likely be very effective. Even over the past few years, the trend has been shifting toward hiring older people as truck drivers demonstrated by the statistics of the 2000 Census which stated that 1 out of every 6 drivers was over the age of 55. So why not advertise to older couples so that they can be working for the good of society and the economy while still enjoying their golden years in comfort and in the company of their loved ones?

--Sarah O'Donohue

Anonymous said...

If trucking firms are having such trouble maintaining a labor force (from the 1990's on, as Sarah said), they might start turning to older people who are probably retired from their own, non-trucking jobs who may have wanted to pursue a more high-profile career during their younger years but are now willing to try something new in their spare time. Also, attracting drivers who are already retired might mean that the trucking companies won't have to pay for as many benefits if some of these hirees are already on a medicare or other health plan for retired persons. Like Sarah said, couples are probably being recruited to drive together so that they won't feel the pains of being away from home, and also because more ground could probably be covered if one driver sleeps while the other drives for a while and the driving is traded off. This system seems a little unorthodox but not without insight.

Anonymous said...

Many truckers are probably leaving their jobs due to the long hours and the constant moving. Their life is practically takes place on the road with no time to spend with friends and family, unless they are in the truck with you. The reason trucking companies would employ older couples, would be because the truck makers are trying to make the trucks feel more like a home so that their families can tag along. Also like Carrie stated, the employers would not have to pay benefits to "older people," because they may already be on some sort of plan.


Anonymous said...

I read this article ( give myself a little more perspective on the issue. The government "estimates the number of truck drivers will rise 19% from 2002 to 2012, making driving one of the fastest-growing occupations during those 10 years" according to that site. The allure of driving a truck on a cents per mile basis seems an odd ambition to me, but then again, to be a trucker, it is a lot about the lifestyle as much as it is about the career. I tend to identify truckers as the creepy guys that honk and make obscene gestures when I'm driving the car on our family road trips, but I know that that is more of a stereotype than not. In fact, my parents are friends with a lady who's parents recently decided to leave their home in Wisconsin to take up truck driving. They figured that their kids were grown and they wanted to see all of America, but they couldn't afford to do that without making an income. Truck driving seemed to be the perfect outlet. Since the rest of their brood no longer lives with them, it is less of an issue to be dealing with than younger people who are forced with the issue of leaving their spouse and children to be on the road all the time. Trucking companies are probably not only finding an untapped market of workers, but they are also improving their image from random sleezy guy to a more family oriented, approachable older couple.

Kate Vanderlip

Anonymous said...

Trucking companies could be facing a shortage of workers due to an increase in the demand of shipping. Also, there are federal rules restricting the number of hours allowed on the road, so the companies need more drivers to keep up the productivity. In order to do so, older couples could be there best bet because perhaps they are more cautious behind the wheel. After already raising children they are not tied down to where they live. Young people would rather have a job at home even if it pays less, then have to drive a big rig. It is also a way for them to travel with a lower cost to them. I agree with Carrie that more ground could be covered if driving was traded off. There would be less need for rest stops. And, after watching Oprah there seems to be a problem with prostitution; and that would probably be cut down if big rig drivers were couples or families.