The image of trucking is changing. The public is seeing, and respecting, how essential the industry and our professional drivers are to every aspect of the economy and daily lives.
Admittedly, the stereotype of trucking has hurt the industry — gone are the days of “Smokey and the Bandit,” or outlaws on the road — but that image still persists.
Today, strict federal regulations and leaders in the field are the first to promote safety and technology.
Historically, the big boon for truck driving culture came out of World War II, and the men who were born during that time. Now, they are aging out—they’ve devoted their lives to building companies, employing thousands of workers, both on and off the road, to supply our state and nation from everyday goods to emergency fuel and medical supplies during the hardest of times.
We have all heard about the truck driver shortage. Today, we need 80,000 drivers to fuel the current supply chain. In 10 years, we will need 1.1 million new drivers to replace retiring workers and meet consumer demands. Everything we touch, wear, eat, use, drive (and drive on) comes to you via truck.
And in Florida, we need the lion’s share of drivers, due to geography, ports, demographics and consumption.
So, what comes next?
We’ve got companies at the forefront of automated and electric vehicles battling to be the market leaders. Every year, trucking companies invest billions of dollars in advanced safety technologies in trucks to keep the driver and all motorists safe on our roads. These innovations won’t make truck drivers obsolete—but it does make it easier and safer to be a professional driver.
The newest generation of trucking executives have MBAs, law degrees, and in Florida Trucking Association’s case, our Board Chair, Scott Perry, has an advanced degree in Sustainability from Harvard. Look further out and see initiatives to recruit veterans, minorities and women. Just this week, the American Trucking Associations’ national conference announced the newest state trucking association CEOs — all three women (myself included).
The trucking industry is adapting to a rapidly changing business landscape, which means great opportunities for the next generation entering the field.
To be sure, driving 80,000 pounds of freight can be challenging, but it’s also a high-skill, high-wage career, with a salary commensurate of a corporate VP, and offers a level of autonomy that most working in a cubicle couldn’t begin to imagine.
Trucking connects every aspect of our economy. If trucking is the backbone of our country, the drivers are the heart.
Florida Trucking Association is working with all stakeholders: members of Congress, Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida legislators, state agencies, driving schools and private companies to find solutions to our driver shortage and get more well-trained drivers on the road.
It’s a new day, and there’s a bright light shining on the industry. And no matter what challenges we face, trucking always delivers.
Alix Miller is the president and CEO of the Florida Trucking Association.