Had a nice chat the other day with Steven Anderson, corporate director for safety at DiSilva Transportation, which owns a number of trucking companies that haul freight in the Northeast, roughly from Maine down to Virginia and as far west as Ohio.
A 25-year veteran of United Parcel Service before joining DiSilva five years ago, Anderson told me one of his biggest challenges as a safety director is educating his workforce about the trucking profession - particularly the younger workers coming in through the company‘s doors, people that view trucking more as an occupation than as a lifestyle.
“Our workforce isn‘t made up of truck drivers from birth anymore - that‘s our greatest challenge,” he told me. “In the past, truck drivers grew up wanting to drive trucks - it‘s something they wanted to do since they were kids. And with that came the focus on skill the professionalism, everything you needed to become a great truck driver.”
Anderson told me the hurdle he must cross is how to transfer that focus on skill and safety to workers that view trucking only as a job - and he believes that transfer is a vital necessity.
“Look, we drive in probably some of the most congested areas of the country - New York City, Boston, Washington D.C.,” he told me. “That‘s why safety and skill is so important, simply because the operating environment is very difficult.” Anderson sees himself and his staff playing the roles of educator, coach, and mentor to enable younger workers to absorb and hopefully drive with the professionalism of what he calls “old-time truckers” so they will be safe - along with the people surrounding them on the highways.
This is a challenge faced by all trucking companies - large and small, long-haul, regional, private, you name it - as the position of truck driver is viewed increasingly as just a job, no longer coming with the title “Knight of the Road.” It will be interesting to see how the industry adapts to the changing workforce in the years ahead.