ATRI study: Pay's important to young drivers, but so are other factors

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Updated Jul 22, 2022
Cover of ATRI report

A new study sheds light on the outlooks of young drivers about trucking careers, and offers insights into trucking companies’ views about hiring Millennials and Gen Zs.

The American Transportation Research Institute earlier this week released its study “Integrating Younger Adults Into Trucking Careers,” which examines the attitudes and expectations of 18 to 25-year-olds. It also offers key findings in three categories: recruiting young drivers, training them, and retaining them.

While ATRI found a large percentage of young drivers cite pay as important when making a job choice, it was not the only reason.

The survey found 40% of respondents view pay as the top factor when it comes to joining or remaining with a carrier.

But, ATRI also found:

  • 15% of younger drivers viewed having a stable career as equal to or more important than pay

  • 14% cited a love of driving

  • 10%, work-life balance

  • 8%, career benefits ( 401k and health insurance) 

  • 7%, travel

  • 6%, new experiences

A large majority of younger drivers – 84% – consider company culture important. Many said they dislike cutthroat environments and prefer collaborative environments where managers, dispatchers, and other drivers see themselves as part of the same team. 

ATRI’s findings showed the younger drivers it polled identified five concrete practices for building this kind of community-driven company culture:

  • Promoting supportive managers

  • Making sure employees understand each other’s roles first-hand

  • Encouraging managers and coworkers to show each other leeway as needed

  • Encouraging employees to ask and share their own unique strategies for success

  • Establishing opportunities for casual social interaction among employees (such as in the mornings before shifts begin)

When it comes to attracting younger drivers, 20% of respondents cited the importance of transparency. Their suggestions included making job postings more explicit about expectations or requirements and posting “day in the life” videos or other content to help convey a sense of what a job in trucking is like.

The ATRI research also identified the importance of family when recruiting younger drivers. It found that 73% of them were introduced to trucking by a family member already in the industry.

Among the fleets surveyed by ATRI, 25 percent of large fleets and 18 percent of small fleets have driver apprenticeship programs for training younger drivers. However, only 20% of large fleet participants and 15% of small fleet participants utilize any drivers under the age of 21 in some capacity. Many successful younger driver apprenticeship programs involve Class B or intrastate driving, according the the study's findings.

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ATRI’s study also looked at one of the mechanisms created by the federal government to attract younger drivers to the trucking industry, the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Program, which was included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. 

The ATRI research found 91% of fleets with fewer than 100 drivers do not intend to participate in the program, and fully 75% of fleets with 100 or more drivers will not. Among the reasons cited for not participating were:

  • Company minimum standards require drivers to be over 21 years old

  • Increased insurance costs

  • Do not have the resources or personnel to commit to the required training

  • Registering apprenticeship program with the U.S. De[partment of Labor

  • Concerned about the safety of drivers under 21