TLD Logistics making concerted effort to recruit millennials for its workforce
By Al Muskewitz
Wright Media Editor-in-Chief
You could say Pete Hance entered the trucking industry by happy accident, and now he’s embraced it as his career.
The 27-year-old Knoxville, Tenn., native went to university to study environmental science, but after graduating had trouble finding a job in his field. The game of life certainly wasn’t slowing down even if his career track was, so he still had to find good work.
After a series of random positions he looked into truck driving – not exactly a first choice for people in the millennial demographic – and soon found himself behind the wheel of a 18-wheel dry van for TLD Logistics Services. About a year later he came off the road for a spot in the company’s brokerage division and is now firmly established as a young professional.
“They gave me an opportunity for a good, stable job,” Hance said. “I’ll be honest, I never really wanted to drive a truck, but it seemed like an exciting opportunity and there are a bunch of people in this office who one way or another have found their way in here, people from all different levels of education who decided they wanted to move into this industry and they moved into different jobs.
“TLD just likes to give anybody a real shot. It’s one of the rare jobs where you can pretty much make whatever you want out of it.”
The trucking industry is looking to a younger generation to help offset the industry-wide driver shortage brought on in part by an aging and retiring workforce, and TLD has been actively recruiting millennials.
Five years ago, 20 percent of the industry employment force was comprised of millennials, identified as those coming of age in the early 2000s, which was smaller than the percentage of the next three 10-year age groups. There was even a higher percentage of 65-and-older drivers than 24-and-younger, a trend not present in other workforce categories.
Move ahead three years and there were fewer than 900,000 of an estimated 3.6 million trucking industry employees in the 16-34 age demographic and 620,000 in the 25-34 set – less than 140,000 fewer than any of the next three age categories. A recent study by ATRI, the research arm of the American Trucking Associations, indicated the average age of a new driver being trained nationally is 35 years old.
Driving is the critical and most visible element of the industry, and attracting younger people to what is perceived as a difficult job can be a challenge, but there are positions throughout that a young employee could find appealing and TLD, as Hance’s story proves, is actively filling them. It currently has 73 drivers in the 21-32 demographic, about 17 percent of the fleet. The company also is an advocate ofallowing 18-21 year olds to drive interstate commerce.
There are all sorts of positions in the industry to attract millennials. At TLD, college graduates go through a driver trainer program to get their CDL, drive on their own for at least a year and then can move into an office position if so desired. The reverse is available, too, as staff employees who have a hankering to get in a truck can find their way from the office to the open road.
“We do a lot of stuff that really tries to help our people with whatever avenue they want to go,” TLD president Jim Peters said. “If they want to be an employee driver they come in through our driver training school. We have probably a half-dozen people who’ve come out of our driver training school, went and drove for us and now they’re in positions of management that are helping to direct the future of the company.
“It’s really all about choices to allow them to take a look around and figure out what they want to do.”
It’s a lucrative career option. The average salary for a Tennessee public university bachelor’s degree graduate is $37,258; salaries for TLD truck driving school graduates are between $50,000 and $65,000. The average student debt after graduating from a Tennessee university is $19,507; a truck driver’s debt after graduating from one of TLD’s Truck Driving Schools is $2,500 – and after a year’s service TLD reimburses the driver in the form of a bonus.
But for millennials satisfaction goes way beyond money. They want work with a purpose and fulfillment; truck drivers are the backbone of the country’s economy, virtually every product consumed by Americans is brought by truck. They crave experiences; Hance’s 18 months over the road took him to places all over the country. TLD offers programs and benefits that keep its drivers connected and help it regularly rank among the best fleets to drive for in the country.
As a tech driven generation, millennials will find new technologies continually being introduced into the industry to engage their minds and challenge their unique skill sets beyond simply sitting behind the wheel.
“It’s not like people all the time are thinking about being a truck driver … but more people should just give it a shot,” Hance said. “I know there’s plenty of people right out of school or never even went to school that had a job they never liked and struggled along when they could just decide to get in this industry. There’s a huge driver shortage and there’s somewhere you can definitely get on and have a very good career ahead; there’s not many places you can say that.
“You can make whatever you want out of it. There are plenty of people who are super successful. It’s a pretty lucrative job especially when you’re young in your 20s. I’d be comfortable staying in this industry for my whole career.”