Tuesday, February 01, 2022

ATA Foundation Titans light the way to a brighter trucking industry

By Will Bruser
ATA Chairman of the Board

It’s no secret to those of us in the trucking industry that the COVID-19 pandemic amplified the challenges we were already facing in our workforce.

A shortage of qualified professional drivers and diesel technicians, among other jobs, has plagued the growth potential of the trucking industry for years. Numerous factors are impacting this issue, but one thing is certain, the Alabama Trucking Association and its members are taking responsibility and action to drive solutions for our future workforce.

In September, ATA president and CEO Mark Colson laid out a strategic plan for how we will recruit the next generation workforce for our industry and issued several significant challenges to the leaders of the trucking industry:

  • That we must be the tip of the spear to tell the real stories of the great job opportunities in our business;
  • We must be great partners to training institutions and help improve the workforce pipeline for those who want to enter our industry;
  • We must confront barriers to new entrants to trucking such as insurance requirements; and
  • We must adopt a culture of mentoring new individuals into the industry.

The Alabama Trucking Foundation was created in 2018 for this very purpose, and in just a few short years, we are making an impact throughout the state.

But the workforce challenge is not unique to Alabama. At its annual meeting last October, the American Trucking Associations announced it was creating a Workforce Development Subcommittee to address the critical issue of recruiting, training and retaining Americans to work in the trucking industry.

In an address to the membership, National ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said, “We have heard about the worsening of the driver shortage, as well as the shortage of qualified diesel technicians, and the impact they have on our industry. We will now, through this effort, fully engage with our local, state and federal leaders to find real solutions to these shortages. Our industry has openings today that could provide a middle-class standard of living to tens of thousands of Americans – we just need to find ways to identify these people and provide them adequate training to put them to work building our industry’s future.”

In recent years, National ATA and many state trucking associations, including the Alabama Trucking Association, made workforce development a priority because you told us time and time again that you can’t find enough qualified candidates to fill positions at your businesses. You’ve said that you particularly need more drivers and service technicians and that the lack of a sustained talent pool is keeping you from reaching the goals you’ve set for your businesses.

Our utmost mission as Alabama’s leading voice for the trucking industry is to help you continue to provide the most efficient and effective goods movement system for Alabama’s economy, so when you ask us to take on a specific issue, we jump to action.

About a year ago, we entered into a partnership agreement with the strategic communications agency Markstein to develop effective solutions to attract more qualified applications to the industry. The Markstein team has been involved in this work for years, creating and implementing successful campaigns for other trade industries such as aviation, corrections and construction. These other sectors spend millions of dollars a year addressing their own workforce needs – and it’s working. What’s more, they are poaching qualified ­applicants directly from us.

That is about to change.

As you know, through the ATA Foundation, we have been working hard behind the scenes to bring trucking up to speed to better showcase the many great-paying jobs we offer.

This month, we launch our “Careers in High Gear” initiative to push job seekers to the training programs where they can earn CDLs and degrees and certificates for diesel technology. Once they are trained, we will guide them towards openings at trucking businesses across Alabama. This campaign will feature the “Real Faces of Alabama Trucking’ showcasing individuals who are already thriving in trucking.

Additionally, our members are taking leadership roles at the local level. Thanks to the leadership of Terry Kilpatrick with Billy Barnes Enterprises, Alabama now has a state-endorsed apprenticeship program for trucking and one of the first Career Technical Education CDL programs for high school students. We have also created a Talent Task Force to work with the Alabama Community College System’s Innovation Center to create a streamlined CDL program that will enhance CDL training opportunities throughout the state. There are numerous other advancements in this space, too many to mention here, but know that your association is now in the room where it happens when it comes to workforce development in Alabama.

This is important work, and we will be strategic and organized in our approach. But to accomplish our mission, it will take your support.

Last summer we launched a new super supporters’ program called the Alabama Trucking Titans. In short, the Titans are industry leaders who aggressively support our Foundation’s efforts to bring more qualified people to trucking, among other things. This group is the backbone for our efforts with Markstein. They are the men and women who believe that trucking is a great pathway to a sustainable career for hardworking Alabamians. Careers that can enable them to care for their families.

There are already more than 30 Titans, including myself. We believe that we can change the course for this industry.  It will not be easy, but I know we have the right team and plan in place to achieve our goals.

Won’t you join us?

To learn more about becoming a Titan for Alabama’s Trucking industry, visit www.alabamatrucking.org/becomeatitan