So I just saw the blockbuster hit The Meg this weekend. If you aren’t familiar with the movie, this nail biter is based on a fantastic discovery about the Marianas Trench, the deepest part of the ocean floor. The truth is (in the movie), it isn’t a floor at all, but a layer of dense hydrogen sulfide protecting an undiscovered and unspoiled ecosystem below. Guess who lives there? You got it – Megalodon, a 75-foot prehistoric shark, as well as some other unsettlingly large ocean creatures. It was great fun!
The movie got me thinking about technology and the future of logistics, and how the biggest, scariest single hurdle we face ... the meg of logistics, is the driver shortage. The future is unwritten but there is a real danger in the near future of not having enough drivers to move the country’s food and other goods. It has the potential to become a frightening scenario.
Technology may help alleviate the problem with the further development of driverless and autonomous trucks, but that doesn’t help us in the short term where the shortage could reach a deficit of 175,000 drivers by 2026, according to the ATA. There’s also speculation surrounding the effectiveness of FMCSA’s pilot program, Fixing America’s Surface Transport, or FAST program. The idea is to recruit 18 to 21 year-olds who have prior military experience in logistics who will be allowed to cross state lines to fill some of the driver jobs, but this has not yet passed and has some opposition.
Other possible solutions include tapping into the 47% of women who make up today’s workforce, only six percent of whom are commercial truck drivers. Another common suggestion is raising driver pay. There is also the option of using intermodal services to help alleviate some of the over-the-road capacity when the driver shortage peaks.
I think Dan Clark has the right idea in his blog, An aggressive, Four-Point Plan to Solve the Driver Shortage. All four of his suggestions are good, but one in particular speaks to the root of the problem. Trucking needs rebranding.
In the 70s and 80s, Hollywood made trucking cool. There was Smokey and the Bandit (1977), Convoy (1978), and Big Trouble in Little China (1986). A truck driver’s job portrayed a sense of freedom and autonomy, which was enhanced by a bit of healthy defiance. Who wouldn’t want a life on the open road, especially before all of life’s obligations hit you? No concerns except for the cargo you’re carrying.
But to millennial career seekers, the trucking industry seems old school. Young people’s perception of drivers is that they symbolize generations stuck in the past, making them all technology-challenged.
Those of us in the business know this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Logistics is one of the most heavily funded, aggressive adopters of new technologies in the world. Drivers are interacting with highly sophisticated track and trace capabilities along with ground-breaking transportation management systems and sensor-laden trucks and engines that make working in the industry a whole new experience. Visibility and transparency are key drivers of the technology boom in logistics.
Promoting the technology aspect of the business is what will change the industry’s image. As a marketer, it’s time to blow up that Megalodon. We need to eliminate the fear of the driver shortage by appealing to millennials, gaining their interest in the industry, and fulfilling jobs. A series of killer marketing campaigns kicked off by industry leaders could expose what we in the business already know: how cool trucking still is – and how it is becoming more so every year with technology.