Guest Columnist

Trucking firms must adapt to seize new opportunities

Truck driving students work with instructors on their skills backing up a semi at the Kirkwood Continuing Education Training Center in SW Cedar Rapids on Monday, June 5, 2017. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Truck driving students work with instructors on their skills backing up a semi at the Kirkwood Continuing Education Training Center in SW Cedar Rapids on Monday, June 5, 2017. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

In this ever-changing world, all industries need to be able to adapt. In fact, history has taught us repeatedly how unkind it can be to those that are unable or unwilling to adjust to current demands. When it comes to the future, the adaptability of a few industries potentially will have a major effect on all of our lives — and trucking is one of them.

Consumer habits have changed significantly. Online shopping demands have drastically increased with no signs of slowing down. Two-day shipping has almost become standard, and the internet has created an immediacy to our lives that we all now expect. When you consider that everything you see has been delivered by a truck, you start to understand how crucial the trucking industry is in our society.

But there’s a problem on the horizon.

According to the American Trucking Association, the industry faces a significant truck driver shortage. Over the next decade, employers will need to hire roughly 898,000 new drivers at an average of nearly 90,000 per year. The industry is forecast to grow substantially, and with current unemployment rates and expected retirements, transportation employers will need to find innovative ways to entice and maintain a workforce. Attracting drivers simply by offering 10 cents more per mile than your competitors is not a long-term solution.

It’s time to adapt.

Many forward-thinking employers already are working together to address these challenges through the ICR Transportation and Logistics Sector Board. Instead of acting as competitors, these companies have collaborated on campaigns to spread awareness and interest in careers within the industry. One example is the Rollin’ Rally, a fun, family-friendly afternoon designed to showcase transportation and truck driving as well as create an interest in the next generation of truck drivers. The event was a huge success and could serve as the model for similar inventive ways to build the industry’s workforce.

Additionally, instead of simply looking for those with a commercial driver’s license, it may be time to hire and train employees by seeking out underemployed populations. They have demonstrated a strong work ethic in other jobs, but lack the time to build skills to change careers. Possible solutions to reach this potential workforce gold mine include apprenticeships as well as Earn and Learn models, where individuals are hired and then trained to be truck drivers — all while receiving a paycheck.

For years, Kirkwood Community College has answered the call to train people for careers in this essential industry. In just four short weeks, future truck drivers are trained for incredibly rewarding, high-paying careers and are road-ready to fill the needs of employers.

There are challenges to overcome, but there is opportunity for those looking to adapt. Kirkwood has helped our area employers fill their most pressing needs for more than 50 years. If you’re a transportation employer looking for workforce solutions, I encourage you to contact Kirkwood at Amy.Lasack@kirkwood.edu.

Together we can find the answers to these problems before we encounter them down the road.

• Amy Lasack is senior director of corporate training at Kirkwood Community College.

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