Let's hear it for the old guys. Or since I'm well into that category myself now, those older, wiser folk who've passed the milestone of 50 and are ready for new challenges.

AARP, the huge special-interest association for people over 50, didn't get to be a lobbying powerhouse by accident. Not only are they riding the crest of that enormous population bulge we call the boomers, but they're also incredibly adept at getting large numbers of the over-50 crowd to join and identify with their various programs. I wasn't too pleased when just a week before my fiftieth birthday there was a letter from AARP congratulating me and inviting me to join. And everyone I know who's turned 50 gets the same letter. That's some database they have, and they certainly know how to use it.

One issue of great interest to AARP is employment opportunities for their members. With the driver shortage as bad as it's ever been, you might want to hear what they have to say about older workers looking for new careers.

With all the advances in health care and longevity, as well as the upheaval of a restructuring business economy, there are many “mature workers,” as AARP calls them, who find themselves winding up one career and ready to take on an entirely different one. Your unfilled truck seats could easily offer that second act.

For one thing, training is widely available these days, making it fairly easy to convert an eager career-changer into a CDL holder. It's less likely that there will be young children at home, relieving at least some of the pressures of a long-haul driver's traveling life. And today's trucks are pretty attractive places, especially if you've been shopping for that retirement motor home.

For those who've spent 25 or 30 years working in an office, plant or local job sites, moving from place to place also offers a welcome sense of adventure to this new career as a truck driver. Not all of us get more patient as we age, but many at least develop better coping mechanisms for dealing with frustrating events, and risk-taking tends to recede as evidenced by the drop in insurance rates once we're out of our twenties. And, of course, by the time most people are ready to leave a first career behind, they understand what it means to work for living.

If you doubt that mature workers are such a good potential source for new drivers, take a look at Schneider National, the country's largest truckload carrier. This year, 15% of its new drivers were over the age of 50. In fact, 14% of all its new hires fit that category, filling roles in operations, sales, information technology, customer service and maintenance that might otherwise have gone unfilled or filled by less experienced workers. Their commitment is so great that AARP has just named Schneider National as one of only 24 “Featured Employers,” companies singled out for their efforts to recruit, hire and retain older workers.

The over-50 crowd certainly isn't the complete answer to the driver shortage, but it's one group that has a lot to offer trucking and should be an important element in any efforts to rethink your hiring strategies.

All of a sudden, it doesn't feel so bad to be one of the old guys.

E-mail: jmele@primediabusiness.com
Web site: fleetowner.com