Remember when tennis star Andre Agassi said “image is everything” in the Canon TV ads back in the 90’s? That certainly applies to the current perception problem for technical careers in the trucking industry.
Speaking this week at the Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) annual meeting in Nashville, Randy Zook, CEO for the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, said technical careers are unfortunately an “after thought” with too many students, parents, educators and community leaders.
“We’ve told a generation that you must have a four-year college degree to succeed; that somehow the so-called ‘middle skill’ jobs are not desirable,” he told a packed audience at the Music City Center in downtown Nashville. “The truth of the matter is, many of these jobs pay higher wages than many bachelor degree options.”
Zook said changing this perception is vital to the future health of the U.S. trucking industry, which is facing a retirement tsunami – the number of retiring technicians is far greater than those beginning careers as diesel engine technicians, truck body repair specialists, etc.
Zook discussed a new program in Arkansas – “Be Professional, Be Proud” – that is designed to provide “real and complete” information about technical career opportunities in trucking and other industries.
Focus groups, social media, and curriculum development for teachers are just a few of the tactics that will be deployed to help students, parents and educators in Arkansas make more informed decisions about technical career opportunities. One of the most exciting components of the program, a mobile workshop (see photos), was on display in the exhibit hall.
Vincent (Mike) Boarman, director of maintenance for D.M Bowman Inc., was at the kickoff breakfast and agreed that a shortage of technicians is a big problem.
“You don’t need a degree to be a good technician in the trucking industry,” he said. “What you do need is a good attitude and work ethic.”
Boarman manages a team of 92 people at D.M Bowman, which has seven terminals, including shops for truck body, trailer and engine work, and is based in Williamsport, MD. His team provides maintenance for 383 tractors and 1,400 trailers, as well as conducting repair work for other fleets.
Boarman said he finds most of his technicians through job fairs and Craigslist; he believes newspaper ads are generally too expensive for the results generated.
The company utilizes a formal mentoring program with the veteran technicians teaching the ropes to the newly hired. “My experience has been that if you can keep them a year, they will likely stay,” said Boarman, who started his trucking career on the floor 30 years ago.
There are many ways to tackle this issue – upgrading the equipment at technical schools, mentoring programs at fleets, diversity initiatives, and outreach programs such as “Be Professional, Be Proud.”
As a major tire supplier to the U.S. trucking industry, Double Coin is very supportive of these efforts. A dynamic industry with “new blood” coming in is in the best interest of all of us who make a living in trucking, as well as the general public because trucking plays such an important role in our overall economy.
Double Coin also utilizes its various communications channels, such as social media, blog, videos and the corporate website, to help educate the trucking industry about tire technology and best practices in tire maintenance, applications and other key issues.