Sometimes it feels like the trucking industry is reaching a tipping point. In fact, it feels like that quite often, but the change may or may not be a quantum shift or a positive one for road transport.
At the moment we are approaching a major generational change and, because time waits for no man, it has to happen. A large cohort of people who hold positions of responsibility and ownership in trucking, are approaching the point at which they will need to step back from industry.
These baby boomers were involved in road transport when it grew exponentially from small beginnings to a major contributor to the country’s GDP. As a result there are a lot of people who started out in trucking between the sixties and the eighties. These people are all now approaching retirement age.
The average age of truckies goes up year on year as does the average age of small fleet owners. There is a demographic time-bomb sitting at the heart of the industry. The smart operators have seen this coming and groomed younger members of the family or younger managers within the business to take over the reins. The alternative is to sell up to one of the big boys or a competitor, if a buyer can be found.
This change would not be be a problem if we had attracted lots of keen young people into the industry twenty years ago, but we didn’t. The generational change was too far away and we couldn’t see it coming.
Things are different now, and the recruitment of bright young people to operate in and run the trucking industry is a widespread priority. Over the next few years we are going to see a jump in average ages in the industry as trucking, virtually, skips a generation.
The uncertainty of what will happen as this generational shift takes hold has lead to some people hanging on in the industry longer than they would have if the circumstances were different. This sees pressure for change build up in some cases.
What we can be sure of is change will come, the passage of time continues. The trick is to ensure it is no too disruptive, a generational handover can be seamless, and it should be.
In terms of the big picture, the most likely outcome will see not so much a change in the overall picture, but a a change of culture. A culture shift is likely to spread right across the trucking industry, as the very different perspective of the 21st century demographic replace the way the fifties and sixties generation look at the world of work.