Paving the way for trucking’s next generation – Taking the Hire Road

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On a recent episode of Taking the Hire Road, Lindsey Trent, President and Co-Founder of Next Generation in Trucking, joined Jeremy Renner to highlight her work in creating a pathway to attract younger workers to the trucking industry.
One of the inspirations Trent highlights for creating Next Generation in Trucking was persistent shortages in skilled labor. Trent said, “Working in driver staffing and then going to work for Ryder, I had a conversation every single day about the workforce shortages.”
To get younger drivers interested in becoming professional drivers, Trent determined that raising awareness in school systems is a good first step. The challenge for many schools is they lack trucking-specific vocational classes compared to other trades. “You can study plumbing and be an electrician and welding in high schools. Why can’t we study professional driving? And so that’s exactly what we started to do is really dive deep into the education world and see where we were lacking and then start to put efforts in there to be involved in organizations … . We walk schools through the process of how to start a trucking program,” Trent said.
Fellow co-founder Dave Dine was a teacher who started a trucking program seven years ago at Patterson High School. Trent adds, “One of the big things that we’re trying to do is replicate his program across the country. And so we’ve got schools all across the country that are starting these trucking programs using driver simulation training, preparing that student to get their commercial learner’s permit and then going on to get their behind-the-wheel training.”
This added interest in trucking is creating other opportunities for students who may go to college but not get their CDL, yet still get jobs related to the supply chain. Trent said, “Dave even gets students that say, ‘You know what, I want to go to college and I’m still going to go to college, but I want to come back as an engineer in the trucking industry or a supply chain manager in the trucking industry.’ So they are really falling in love with trucking and the supply chain and making it their career choice.”
Networking and relationship-building were crucial elements that helped in the early growth of Next Generation in Trucking. Trent said, “So we were 100% volunteers when we started the organization. I’m on the board of the Kentucky Trucking Association. I reside in Louisville, Kentucky. So I got a lot of support from the people in Kentucky and then surrounding states and just partners, learning about what we were doing.” Trent adds that the trucking industry is a tight-knit community, and membership in NextGen started snowballing as more people talked and learned what the organization was doing.
While the program originally started off focusing on drivers, it quickly became apparent there was also a need to focus on medium- and heavy-duty truck technicians. To address this growing demand, Trent began a focus on more partnerships to help drive changes in curriculum. Trent adds, “The best thing that we can do is work with an employer in their local community and meet with the school and the employer who’s interested in helping this school start the trucking program, and it just snowballs from there.”
Trucking classroom education is also being enhanced with the addition of driving simulators and virtual reality headsets. Trent talked about adding VR headsets, through which students can learn to change the oil in a truck or replace a tire. The incorporation of technology for practical applications is a growing component of generating excitement among students.
Trent noted another benefit of trade skills and trucking is the looming threat of AI disruption on whitecollar workers with college degrees. Trent said, “Skilled trade jobs are not going to be taken over by AI, but there are a lot of those college-bound jobs that are. And so we really need to promote more skilled trades, even more so. We know freight’s increasing. We know we have an aging workforce. We have good jobs. We’ve got to promote trucking within career technical education.”
For an aging driver workforce, more research is needed but the opportunity is there. Trent adds, “We need the numbers to know that an 18-year-old that’s been properly trained and is in an apprenticeship program is just as safe as a 24-year-old that just decides they want to get their CDL. And that’s why we’re trying to create these safety training programs in high schools to really increase the amount of training hours for young people.”
Sponsors: Career Now Brands, The National Transportation Institute, Infinit-I, Workhound, Asurint, Transportation Marketing Group, Seiza, Drive My Way, DriverReach, F|Staff, Trucksafe

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