Just about every industry in the U.S. today has the same problem: A shortage of labor. Baby boomers, the largest demographic in this country, are retiring in droves.
Unfortunately, the generations behind them are smaller in numbers, so it doesn't take a mathematician to see that there are more people leaving the workforce than entering it.
In addition, low unemployment nationally is aggravating the situation and making it difficult to fill all types of positions. This is a big problem for everybody.
However, when we look at skilled, commercial vehicle technicians, we see that for every 10 technicians retiring, only two are coming into the industry.
Nearly 300,000 new truck and bus technicians will be needed over the next 10 years. Tire technicians also are in short supply with more retiring or moving to other industries than are joining the commercial truck tire industry.
As commercial tire dealers take on more and more maintenance roles from fleets, you are going to need more skilled technicians to handle both tire and vehicle service requirements.
Further, you are not just competing with other tire dealers for these personnel assets but with commercial truck and bus fleets, truck and trailer dealerships as well as other industries that need technicians. It's a very competitive market.
To exacerbate this situation, young people today have been told by their parents, teachers and peers that being a technician is dirty, menial work that they won't like, and that they have to go to college and attain a white-collar degree to have a successful career.
They don't want them to be what formerly were known as mechanics or grease monkeys. Working in a shop is not only less appealing, but most young people today are not even aware of the opportunities available in the trucking and commercial tire industries, and that the job title of maintenance technician better describes the more advanced systems of today's medium- and heavy-duty vehicles that include two to eight computers.
Spreading the word
Many organizations are working hard to address this situation. TechForce Foundation has launched its FutureTech Success campaign that aims to raise awareness with a national, multiyear, multimedia effort.
It's working hard to get the message out to students, parents and educators that being a technician is a highly technical career with great opportunities, good pay and career advancement.
The National Transportation Center, an organization dedicated to attracting, training and retaining the transportation industry's workforce, recently hosted a group of 25 students from a high school in the Indianapolis area for a one-day, industry-sponsored boot camp that focused on career opportunities in the industry and site visits at a FedEx Express maintenance facility and its Indianapolis airport hub.
It was so successful that other school districts have requested that their students participate in future boot camps.
Trucking companies are getting involved, too. Ryder Systems Inc. is working with Big Brothers Big Sisters in its headquarters location of Miami to show these young people what a shop environment looks like and what a technician does.
Penske Truck Leasing has 16 dedicated recruiters that maintain local relationships with over 100 technical schools across the country.