Bob Martin: Hello, and welcome to Imagine America Radio, and our first episode of our top trending careers of 2022, in our awareness month. On this episode, we’re going to talk about trucking careers, specifically what it’s like to become a trucker and how a trucker—and how best to prepare yourself for those kinds of career. We’re going to be talking to two people that represent a very innovative program, a new way of looking at trucking careers, and a very solid mission of trying to get down to the high school level and let those high schoolers know about the quality opportunities there are in the truck driving industry. Joining us today is David Dean. He’s the high school trucking coordinator at Next Generation in Trucking. And also joining us today is Lindsey Trent, president of Next Generation in Trucking. Welcome, you guys. Thank you very much for joining us.
Lindsey Trent: Thanks for having us.
David Dean: Yeah. Pleasure to be here.
Bob: Okay. Let’s start off. If you could—like we do with all of our guests—why don’t you give us a thumbnail or just a general background—Lindsey or Dave, either one—of what’s the truck driving career like and what’s the opportunity there for young people that might decide to listen to this podcast.
David: So, the role of a truck driver is to deliver goods safely and in a timely manner. And what’s great about the trucking industry is that not all jobs are equal. So, it’s really based on what a person wants as far as if they want a local position, if they’re looking for that work-life balance. If they’re looking for more adventure, there’s jobs called over-the-road or OTR. It takes them out to new places, new locations, new adventures. And, so, it’s really about finding a fit for whatever type of trucking that you have an interest in.
Bob: So, when we were researching this topic, we were looking at the Bureau of Labor Statistics because that’s really important to be able to drive. And we estimate—in their numbers—there’s going to be 231,000 openings in heavy and tractor truck driver positions. Is that consistent with what you’re seeing? So, it’s a great opportunity—lots of opportunity out there, Dave?
Dave: Oh, my gosh, yeah, there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity. And not only do we have this—the reason why we have these huge numbers is that it’s estimated that 25% of our current drivers are already at the age of retirement. At the age of 55, they can retire. So, we have a lot of people that are leaving this industry on a daily basis, and we just haven’t had a lot of younger people that really have considered trucking. And, so, we have this huge deficit.
Lee Doubleday: Yeah. Lindsey, I mean, this is part of the reason why we wanted to have you join the podcast today, because it sounds like your organization has done a great job of creating a program that is designed to be implemented at the high school level. Can you speak to that a little bit?
Lindsey: Yeah. So, Dave, who is on the program with me, he teaches at Patterson High School. And he created this program five years ago, and his students learn how to become a truck driver. It’s the ins and outs of the industry. It’s a year-long program. They meet an hour a day, and they also have after-hours lab instruction that happens sometimes. Then when they graduate, they enroll with a private driving school to actually get their CDL. And Dave’s created a very holistic approach to a truck-driving program. He focuses on soft skills. He has a lot of partners that have come in and helped him create just a great curriculum where it’s working with those supply chain managers. And you don’t think about what a truck driver does. They’re not just sitting behind the wheel all the time. They’re going in and interacting with dispatch and interacting with the people they’re making deliveries to. But it depends on which type of truck driving job you have. And there’s so many different ones. There’s just a lot of opportunities that young people need to know, hey, there are so many truck driving jobs. They’re in every community, and truck drivers are home every night. They can be out a couple of nights. They can be out for weeks. You really can choose. If you are a truck driver, you can be a female, a male, you can live in a small town, in a big town. You can say, “I want to be home every single night,” and that’s the job you can get. You can say, “I want to see the country,” and that’s the job you can get. And what we’re trying to do is really trying to let young people be aware that there’s a lot of opportunities around the country, and they’re very varied in the opportunities, and they make really good money. And so, we want you all to know that truck driving is a great job, lots of benefits, and you can make a great income supporting your family. And with Dave’s program, we’re trying to replicate it across the country so that more young people can get that training right at the high school level.
Lee: That’s fantastic. And Dave, how has this program been received so far? What have you seen that’s happened as a result of implementing this at Patterson?
Dave: Yeah. So, it’s been very well received by our students and our community and our industry partners. The students see this as something that it’s very tangible, something that they can pursue while they’re in high school with great opportunities, and so we get a lot of word-of-mouth advertising; friends are telling their friends. Each year, our enrollment has gone up—in addition to our female population enrollment has gone up, which is fantastic because currently only about 10% of our drivers are female. And we know the only way we’re going to generate more female drivers is to create more female role models. So, the more females we can get that will take the class and experience it—and it’s just been a great journey for everyone.
Bob: Hey, Dave. This is Bob again. Walk me through and our audience through how this program works. You are an employee of the school system, and your job is to work within the high school [inaudible] program, is that right? Can you kind of continue on with that for me?
Dave: Sure, so I’m a—it’s called a career technical education instructor at Patterson High School. So, my job is to teach the truck driving class. The curriculum—since the CTCDL doesn’t have its own pathway, we’ve been developing working with our industry partners what does a program looks that really prepares somebody just not for getting into trucking, but really preparing them to have a long, healthy career in this industry. So, we’re able to incorporate programs like Worklete that teaches students the proper way to perform industry-specific body movements to reduce workplace injuries. Working with the Trucking Fitness Company to focus in on health, nutrition, wellness. And so, ultimately, we want our students to have long, healthy careers.
Lee: So, what you’ve built is the curriculum that any school—not just Patterson—could adopt. What do you need, as a high school, already in place in order to implement the curriculum that you’ve come up with?
Dave: Yeah, and that’s the reason we’re doing this is we know we don’t want to have to have schools try to reinvent the wheel, and we want to give them a turnkey curriculum that’s ready to go. So, what they would need is an instructor—somebody that is in possession of a Class A license, also with some work experience, of course. But really, it is really a turnkey curriculum. We use some of the latest simulations programs so students actually have the experience of driving a truck in different modes, either being 10-speed transmission, automatic transmission, all different weather conditions. It’s really about teaching hazard perception so they start to plan in advance what could happen and already have a plan in place so they are able to react faster. And the feedback that we get from our private truck driving school that we work with is that our students far and excel any other student that they work with. They’re just so better prepared. They’re better trained, and they’ve had great success once they go into this industry. And we get numerous phone calls from our industry partners that are—they just want more of them. They’re begging me for more, mainly because they’re so well trained and they have such great attitudes and they’re willing to learn. And that’s the thing about going into trucking. I’ve been in trucking for over 33 years, and I’m still learning. And that’s the great thing about this industry is that you never stop learning. And, so, if you have a—if that’s part of your personality makeup, it’s a great career choice.
Bob: There’s two ways we could go with this thing because I’m very intrigued by what you’re saying. But the first one would be to ask you what you think the personality traits are for people that could be successful. But what I would like to do is have you be thinking about that, but then ask Lindsey—putting her hat on as your national coordinator of this program. Lindsey, what are you putting in place—what are you starting to put in place to tell people the good news about this particular program and to start to get more public relations and marketing on it? What are you doing?
Lindsey: Yeah. So, we are in the process of creating a PowerPoint presentation. So, it’s an educational resource where anybody can go into their local high school—whether it’s a truck driver or the president of a company that operates trucks—and teach about the trucking industry. So, it’s going to be really interesting and engaging with video embedded. And we have a lot of really sharp people working on this task force to create this presentation because we know there’s 26,000 high schools across the country, and there’s trucking in the backyard of all of them. So, if we can get our industry engaged, then we will be more successful. And that’s what we’re trying to do is have them be more engaged in their local education and to be a resource to that local education. And maybe bring trucks and come and speak at a career fair or a career day about the trucking industry. So there’s a lot of great things that we’re doing—working with local workforce boards and then also working with the Association for Career and Technical Education and the association of school counselors. We’re also forming relationships with FFA and SkillsUSA because we want to reach all of these students and just let them know about the trucking industry.
Bob: So, the second part—thank you, Lindsey. The second part is gets back to what I said that we’re at this crossroad was on this discussion. Dave, you see a lot of kids come through and you probably know after 30 minutes whether or not this is going to work for them or whether it’s going to be a challenge for them. Give us an idea—because we ask this of all of our guests—two or three of the personality traits that you think in your mind lend to young people being successful in this particular career.
Dave: Yeah, there’s a lot. But if we’re going to narrow it down to just a couple, it’s really aligned to those students that really—they want to be their own boss, right? There’s a sense of freedom out there, and there’s also a career that is where you can be a part of something bigger than yourself. When I drove, I took great pride in calling myself a truck driver. And at the end of the day, knowing that I did something that a lot of people can’t do—that I delivered those goods to people that needed those products. And it’s a great sense of accomplishment. But more than that, trucking is a lifestyle. It’s not a job. It’s not something you do. It becomes who you are. It becomes part of your identity. And it’s a great family to be a part of. And no matter where I go in the US, if I run into a truck driver, there’s an automatic connection there. One thing I tell all my students is that you’re going to hear a lot of numbers out there as far as how much you can make as a driver. And yes, I have some former students that are making six figures driving a truck. But if you do it solely for the money, you’re going to be highly disappointed in this career choice. You really have to have a passion for trucking. And if you have a passion for it, then it’s like this is definitely a career path that you’re definitely going to love.
Bob: So, I hear entrepreneurs—people that want to be their own boss—which is really not uncommon from other skills trade people that we talk to nearly almost every day. They’re going to school because they want to run their own business. They want to create their own opportunities. They want to generate their own wealth. And if I’m successful, I want to decide whether I’m successful. Okay? I heard independent. Is that fair, an independent kind of individual?
Dave: Oh, definitely. Yes. Be on their own.
Bob: And then I hear passion. Passion. Anything else?
Dave: Yeah, I would definitely—somebody who’s courteous. You’re going to be dealing with the general driving public out there who—they’re not professional drivers, and you just got to be the bigger person and not take offense when somebody cuts you off, you got to let things go. You have to have a really positive attitude. Not every day is going to go smooth. There’s going to be some hard days out there and just knowing that you’ll get through them. And sometimes you just can’t take things personally. And somebody who’s very organized, and somebody who can kind of plan out their day with great time management skills. But as I said before, it is a lifestyle. It’s not like any other job or career out there, but that’s what makes us so unique and so special.
Lee: Very cool. All right, Lindsey, now let’s say I’m listening to this podcast and I’m a high school counselor or teacher, career and technical educator—where should I go to learn more about this program and how can I contact someone to talk to me about this?
Lindsey: Yeah, you can reach out to us. We literally meet with a different school every day. We’ve met from people all the way from Alaska to Florida, so all across the country. And you can get on our website, nextgentrucking.org. There’s contact us forms there, but you can also email me. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be happy to help you get a program started. If you didn’t write down my email, you can just go to our website and you can find our email on the website. There’s also a contact us form on our website, and we’d be glad to at least give you some resources or get you connected. Even if you just want to learn about how we can do a presentation at your school about the trucking industry, maybe you have a career day and you want a presentation about trucking—reach out to us. We’d like to do that. We’d also like to be at your career fair. If you have a career fair and you have a lot of industry partners in your area, but you haven’t had a truck there, reach out to us so we can get you connected to a local trucking provider that will take a truck to your school. So, we’re just about here bringing resources and providing opportunities for you for your students.
Bob: Well, I see, I see a growing relationship with you folks. We’re very excited to talk to you, to learn more about Next Generation Trucking. We will do our best to publicize on our side because we agree with you both—Lee and I—that this is a great opportunity for young people that want to create their own future and want to have an opportunity to be their own boss, and I just commend you for doing it. And on behalf of Imagine America Radio, we want to thank David Dean and Lindsey Trent for joining us today, and we want to wish you all the best and have an open invitation to come back and talk to us when you’re a little bit—when you’re further down, you got that PowerPoint, you want to talk about it—come back to us and talk to us, please. Thank you. Goodbye.
Lindsey: Thank you for having us. Thank you.
Dave: Thank you for having us today.