Understanding your Truck Driver Peers: Generational Differences

American truck driver recruitment and retention continues to be a hot topic. Currently in the United States some experts estimate that there are nearly 200,000 open long haul trucking jobs available.  Not only is the need greater than ever, but the look and feel of the American trucker is changing as well.

Young and Old Behind the Wheel

Younger Drivers are On The RoadThis is most evident between the generations that are currently driving American trucks. The average driver is over 55 years of age. New drivers entering the profession are oftentimes half the media age. Many differences between these 2 groups are prevalent. Understanding these generational differences is key to effective recruiting. In addition, managing both generations in your fleet to facilitate the passing of institutional knowledge is also important to the industry.

Making this inter-generational transition, the passing of the institutional knowledge, takes an understanding of both groups and a plan to make it happen.  Communication issues have always been an obstacle in the transportation industry and between these generations.  Each group has its own core values and its own language. So, how does a trucking company deal with those issues and differences between?  First, let’s look at the characteristics of each generation to better understand the opportunities with each.

Baby Boomers (1946-1964)

The Boomers were the largest generation of our era and has had to compete with their peers for everything.

  • They are always looking for an advantage to set them apart.
  • They embrace networking and understand the value of this.
  • They prefer group time, face-to-face meetings, and working in collaboration with others.
  • In watching their  parents, they have learned a strong work ethic..
  • A Baby Boomer may have a cell phone for convenience, but technology is typically seen as a necessary evil.
  • Given that the average age of these truck drivers are in their 50’s, this age group is the current industry backbone.

Generation X (1965-1980)

The smallest generation of our era who grew up watching their Baby Boomer parents endure tough competition, long work hours and as the great corporate reward for the long hours, downsizing.

  • They learned to be very resourceful and the value of building a portable career so they can remain flexible and withstand workplace changes.
  • They are very independent and skeptical of being told what to do without knowing the end result which is an opposite trait of the silent generation.
  • They prefer to know the end result and be left alone to use their skills and resources to achieve the goal on their own.
  • They will have a cell phone or smart phone and will use it for phone calls, texting and social media.
  • They see technology as an important skill for their career survival and as a daily convenience. They are second largest sector in the transportation industry.

Generation Y (1981-1994)

The second largest and the most adaptable generation of our era.

  • They are highly social.
  • During their school years many were moved from individual tables and worked in groups.
  • They are very confident and believe they can do anything or be anything they want.
  • They are often referred to as “entitled” and want to be seen as capable and made to feel their contributions are meaningful.
  • Their Baby Boomer or Generation X parents taught them the values of flexibility and being entrepreneurial.
  • They are easily bored.
  • They have no problem changing jobs or careers.
  • They view technology as an extension of themselves where phone calls can be annoying and use texting as their preferred form of communication.
  • The newcomers to the transportation industry coming fresh out of driving schools.

Differences Among the Generations

Baby Boomers are process-oriented so the steps taken to get from point A to point B matter, whereas the younger generations are more result-orientated and they do not require this approach. Since people of different generations communicate differently, it is good to remember that just because you tell a younger person something once doesn’t mean they heard it or learned it.  Maybe an e-mail or text will stick with them better if face time isn’t important, after all it is the way they have been educated in our public education system and how they’ve been taught to learn.

Misunderstandings Abound

Equally important for the younger generation to remember, just because you sent a text or tweet doesn’t mean the intended person received or understood your communication. A typical complaint of the older generation is the younger generations’ lack of eye contact when communicating which makes sense when you think about the abundance of smart phone usage today.  Eye contact isn’t a requirement with their form of communication and that is often interpreted as not paying attention.

The Baby Boomer will try to get face time to share information and will wait until they can catch you if necessary because body language and your reaction are integral to their form of communication; whereas a Generation X or Y individual will send you an e-mail, text or group tweet and move on.  Baby Boomers and some of the early Generation X individuals can be great mentors for members of Generations Y and Z.  They can help teach them the importance of face-to-face interpersonal communication and in turn, the Baby Boomers and Generation X individuals can learn technology from Generations Y and Z.  It is certainly a two-way street.

Each generation has its own values and dealing with people from different generations takes work and patience. Now that we have a basic understanding of how the different generations deal with our world, it is up to each company to determine the best approach for them when communicating and training people from different generations. New approaches in giving and receiving information will have to become commonplace in today’s industry. Change is inevitable and facing that reality will give us the opportunity to attract new people into our industry.

 Using the Data when Hiring and Managing

Paramount Freight Systems PFSParamount Freight Systems understands that in today’s trucking industry that changes is inevitable. The ability to adapt to an ever changing industry is what allows us to continue to grow. Paramount is a valuable resource for our customers and our Owner Operators and Lease Purchasers (of all ages). We strive each day to make our workplace better and to provide our drivers a place they can call home.


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