The face of trucking is changing. Drivers now hail from four distinct generations — baby boomers, Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z. The older generations bring stability and experience to the profession, while the younger generations usher in greater diversity and a technology-first approach. This diversity of age and experience makes trucking an expansive industry informed by a variety of perspectives. It also poses a training challenge.
Safety training was once largely considered a one-size-fits-all endeavor, often consisting of in-person classes. That is no longer the case, and trying to pigeonhole all employees into the same traditional program will likely prove frustrating, ineffective, and unsafe for drivers and carriers alike.
“The likelihood that drivers across different generations need the same training and programs is pretty slim,” Tenstreet Transportation Adviser Marilyn Surber said. “Carriers need to consider the demographics of their own fleets and cater their training programs to meet their specific needs.”
About 48% of current driver applicants are 40 years old or younger. This is a significant shift, as the industry has historically struggled to attract younger drivers.
Younger drivers are more comfortable with technology and represent a more diverse workforce than those who came before them. These trends only get stronger as applicants get younger. Members of the youngest generation — Gen Z — are more independent than preceding generations and they are happy to teach themselves new skills using technology, according to Surber.
“We are experiencing a once-in-a-generation shift in our technology and our workforce,” Surber said.
Luckily, technology is evolving alongside the workforce. Companies like Tenstreet offer carriers safety solutions that bridge the gap between old-school methods and new learning preferences.
For carriers with more tech-savvy drivers, training can be completed without ever stepping foot in a classroom, which saves money for companies and can be a serious draw for drivers.
“More than ever, younger drivers and women are reporting leaving companies due to training deficiencies, and that is part of this generational shift,” Surber said. “Being able to gauge the areas people need help in most can be powerful from an onboarding and retention perspective.”
It is important to note that options also exist for drivers who prefer an in-person experience, allowing carriers to cater their training programs to individual preferences and abilities.
Adjusting to the influx of younger drivers is crucial for carriers’ prolonged success, but that does not mean that companies should neglect their older drivers in the process. In many cases, those folks are the more experienced and reliable drivers on the team.
“We are teaching people safety in a way they can understand,” Surber said. “Some fleets have training offered in several different formats. There are also fleets doing some assessment work before orientation and during training to identify and focus on the strengths of drivers.”
Ultimately, technology should allow carriers to create a more customized training experience for drivers, not just a more high-tech one.
“Technology can help create unique, ongoing training you can manage,” Surber said. “We have a full training library with more than 250 courses that can be bundled. We can also host clients’ training content or work with the fleet to create custom training courses.”
Drivers can access these training courses for free through Tenstreet’s Driver Pulse app. The content is provided in multiple languages, allowing drivers who speak Spanish or French to access the same content as English speakers.