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Lindsey Trent is the cofounder and president of the Next Generation in Trucking Association, a non-profit trade association with the mission to promote trucking as a positive career field and create trucking programs while encouraging training and employment of young people in the trucking industry; and connecting them to training and employment opportunities.
Trent fell in love with the trucking industry while also learning about its vast employment needs when she started a job in truck driver staffing. She went on to work in business and customer development for Ryder. Trent brings a wealth of knowledge and connection to areas from professional drivers to technicians, equipment maintenance to warehousing, entry-level staff to leadership. She is passionate about introducing young people to trucking and the opportunities it can provide, leading her to revolutionize the industry by launching education and industry partnerships that aid in creating a skilled, diverse and equitable workforce.
Trent serves on the board of directors of the Kentucky Trucking Association and the advisory board of Kentucky’s Fairdale High School, where she helped start the diesel technician program.
Trent is a graduate of Purdue University and resides in Louisville, Kentucky, with her husband and two kids.
How do we attract the next generation of drivers to the trucking industry? Postal reform gets the green light. And autonomous vehicle technology moves forward.
Pull up a chair and join us as the editors of DC Velocity discuss these stories, as well as news and supply chain trends, on this week's Logistics Matters podcast. Hi, I'm Dave Maloney. I'm the group editorial director at DC Velocity. Welcome.
Logistics Matters is sponsored by Beckhoff. Discover intralogistics automation without limits. Beckhoff offers a complete ultra-compact motion-control system for automated material handling equipment, including a range of space-saving motor and drive solutions for BLDC, MDR, servo technology, and more. Make your move to better motion control by visiting Beckhoff.com/intralogistics.
As usual, our DC Velocity senior editors Ben Ames and Victoria Kickham will be along to provide their insight into the top stories of this week. But to begin today: available workers are hard to find everywhere, and it's even more difficult to find workers for industries where they were scarce even before the pandemic, such as truck drivers. So what's being done to attract the next generation of our nation's truckers? To answer that, here's Ben with today's guest.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 01:26
Thanks, Dave. Yeah, we hear a lot about tight capacity in the supply chain lately, including links like containers backed up at the seaports and warehouses being full of inventory, but a particular supply chain link that's under stress nowadays is the trucking sector, where freight capacity is tighter than it's been in years, making it hard for many retailers and manufacturers to move their goods around the country. One reason for that tight trucking market is a long-term shortage of drivers, and here today to talk about possible approaches or solutions to that issue is our guest, Lindsey Trent, who's the newly named president and cofounder of the Next Generation in Trucking Association. Welcome, Lindsay.
Lindsey Trent, Co-Founder and President, Next Generation in Trucking Association 02:09
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 02:11
First, congratulations on your new position, and to start off our discussion, for our listeners who may not be familiar with the organization, could you describe what the Next Generation in Trucking Association does, and who it represents?
Lindsey Trent, Co-Founder and President, Next Generation in Trucking Association 02:25
Yeah, absolutely. So, we are a newly formed association, and our focus is reaching the next generation and connecting them to trucking careers by creating programs at the high school level, but also raising awareness among high school students about trucking careers, what they entail, and how they can get connected to them. Members of our association are carriers, dealers, truck drivers, diesel technicians, industry professionals, and allied members.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 03:02
Gotcha. So, starting in high school. Get them while they're early, right?
Lindsey Trent, Co-Founder and President, Next Generation in Trucking Association 03:06
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 03:08
Yeah. And we mentioned at the top that the trucking capacity is very tight in the U.S. right now. Could you give us an idea of exactly how challenging those conditions are, and are they any worse than usual?
Lindsey Trent, Co-Founder and President, Next Generation in Trucking Association 03:19
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 03:20
Yeah, please—or is it simply, you know, part of a cycle? I know these things go tighter and looser over time.
Lindsey Trent, Co-Founder and President, Next Generation in Trucking Association 03:26
So today, the ATA says that we're 80,000 drivers short, and ATRI (the American Transportation Research Institute) puts on a steady every year, and for the last seven years, the driver shortage has been the number one issue in the trucking industry. So, we see that capacity is tight, and it's going to get worse as the workforce of truck drivers age. And so what we need to do is backfill them with skilled labor, and we need to reach the next generation, and that should be our skilled labor. I was listening to Mike Rowe recently, and he said, out of five skilled tradespeople that retire, two are only there to fill their place. And so we are looking to create the next generation of trucking professionals to fill the spaces of all of the retirees that are coming in the next few years.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 04:27
Really interesting, yeah, and coincidentally, we've spoken with Mike Rowe at the magazine here before. He has some really enlightening and inspirational messages about those skilled trades and the value of "dirty jobs," and as the man says, So, what are some of the underlying reasons and conditions that are creating these impacts on the trucking market? I know you mentioned, we talked about age here a couple times, starting early with the high school students and talking about the retiring boomers, I guess it is, who are moving on to retiring age.
Lindsey Trent, Co-Founder and President, Next Generation in Trucking Association 05:00
Yeah, so, you know, lifestyle's been an issue for sure, and a lot of companies are thinking of ways to split up routes so drivers aren't away from home as long. With the capacity issues, pay has gotten better. So, the combination of pay and better home life, I think, is going to be good for our industry. But one of the big issues is, young people just aren't sure what trucking is. They don't know how well it pays. And I think we're going to see this generation, Gen Z, they're going to question that model: Do I need to go to college and get student loan debt? Or can I do something else and start my career right away without going and incurring student loans? And we want them to know that, yes, they can start in our industry right away, and they don't need student loan debt and they can make a good living. We have high-skill, high-demand, high-wage jobs, and we want to connect those, them to those, even if it's a different career path, maybe starting in the warehouse being a forklift driver, and then working up to being a CDL driver when they turn 21. Or there's a lot of other companies, too, that can hire those drivers under 21 with the intrastate role, or we've got the new FMCSA [Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration], Safe Driver Apprenticeship [Pilot] Program, where 3,000 drivers under the age of 21, are going to be able to drive interstate. So, there's a lot of really good things going on, but we have to reach this next generation and just let them know and educate them about trucking careers—and that's both CDL drivers and diesel technicians. We've got a lot of great careers, and you can be a truck driver your entire career, or you can be promoted to so many other things: HR manager, safety manager. You can own your own truck, and then your own fleet. So there's a lot of opportunities; we just need to connect these young people to these opportunities.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 07:07
Yeah, really interesting. I mean, people talk about truck drivers, you know, that, as if it's a single job description, but, you know, that's a great point to make about, you know, human resources, safety, the diesel technicians, forklifts—there are a lot of parts that come in to make the whole system work. Another thing that we've talked about on the topic is it that there's recruitment, of course, that we've been talking about, butalso turnover, right? You have to retain the drivers who are in the profession.
Lindsey Trent, Co-Founder and President, Next Generation in Trucking Association 07:38
Yeah, that's right. And turnover has been a big issue. One of our partners is JOBehaviors, and we have an assessment that assesses whether or not you would be a good fit to be a long-term retained driver in the industry, and we have both delivery driver on our website and long-haul driver. So we are exposing students to these job assessments, where they can see if, behaviorally, they have what it takes to make a good, safe professional driver. And in turn, the people that score high on this assessment are retained longer in the industry. So, we hope that that can help with turnover, but we also just have to make conditions better, and I think with technology getting better and—that we are going to see a change in retention.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 08:30
Yeah, really interesting points. And so, as we said, there are a lot of different angles in how all this comes together. We had spoken a little bit about different stakeholders at the top, and I know you said the, your association, you know, represents a number of different players. And of course, the trucking sector, as you mentioned, can include you know, large fleets and long distance, small owner operators and last-mile. Do we have—do those guys really have to work on cooperating to make this effort work?
Lindsey Trent, Co-Founder and President, Next Generation in Trucking Association 09:02
You know, we decided to create this trade association because we felt like there was an industrywide problem. We've known this problem for years, and we felt like we needed to create an industrywide solution. And that's why we created the Next Generation in Trucking Association. We've got truck drivers and diesel technicians that want to be mentors, and mentor younger drivers. We have carriers that want to go into their local school and take a truck and present about what the trucking industry entails and the different opportunities that are in your backyard. The good thing about trucking is that it's in big cities, it's in rural communities, so people can get trained, and they don't have to leave their area. They can stay in their local community and make a good living but have this good job with this high skill and high demand.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 09:58
Great things to keep in mind. Yep. That sounds like some really good messages to get out there. Lindsey, we appreciate your spending time with us today and helping spread the word.
Lindsey Trent, Co-Founder and President, Next Generation in Trucking Association 10:06
Thank you so much for having me.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 10:09
We've had with us today, our guest was Lindsey Trent from the Next Generation in Trucking Association. Back to you Dave.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 10:17
Thank you, Lindsey and Ben. Now let's take a look at some of the other supply chain news from the week, and to stay on the trucking theme, Victoria, you wrote this week about new developments in autonomous trucking. Can you tell us more?
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 10:30
Sure, absolutely. Yeah, so global 3PL Ceva Logistics has teamed up with Kodiak Robotics to launch autonomous freight deliveries between Dallas/Fort Worth and Austin, Texas, as well as between Dallas and Oklahoma City. The companies said the move is a, what they call a critical first step in what's a longer-term goal to integrate Kodiak's autonomous driving technology into Ceva's North American fleet. Ceva delivered its first load with Kodiak this past November and is moving goods weekly on the 200-mile freight lane between Dallas/Fort Worth and Austin, and then the companies expanded their partnership in February, adding another route that runs 200 miles between a Ceva facility in Dallas and a delivery point in Oklahoma City. The companies claim they're doing the first autonomous freight deliveries in the state of Oklahoma, so that's exciting. On both routes, a Kodiak autonomous tractor pulls a Ceva trailer filled with consumer goods. Kodiak operates with a safety driver behind the wheel to oversee the system at all times, which is typical of these pilot and test programs. We've reported on a few other similar efforts this year. Just a few weeks ago, C.H. Robinson and Waymo Via announced an autonomous trucking partnership. That one involves hauling freight between Dallas and Houston. And there was another big announcement from truckload carrier Knight-Swift and self-driving tech provider Embark Trucks. They are working on a program that will equip some of Knight-Swift's vehicles with Embark's technology. So there seems to be, you know, much happening in autonomous trucking, just a few months here into 2022.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 12:06
Yeah, and obviously, those advancements are really good to see. Certainly won't replace drivers anytime soon, but did the Ceva Kodiak announcement talk about why they were doing the project or any specific goals that they hope to achieve?
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 12:20
Yeah, well, there's obviously a lot of interest in the potential for autonomous trucking, and there seems to be an expectation throughout the industry that eventually we'll see widespread adoption of it. No one is really saying when that may occur, of course, but Ceva did say in its announcement that they recognized early on the potential for this technology, and that's what's really driving the program, as it is, you know, for others that we've reported on. And they also mentioned this as a way of addressing labor challenges, both by alleviating strain on its existing workforce, and addressing labor shortages in trucking, in particular, which of course ties into some of the issues Ben and Lindsey talked about just a few minutes ago. As you say, you know, that there's no, this won't be replacing drivers on a large scale anytime soon, but it's just another way to sort of address some of the supply chain issues and problems we've been seeing.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 13:09
Right. And as we've seen and reported on, too, that the autonomous systems within a lot of these vehicles is actually making the truck driver profession much better. It's making it a much easier job for them with a lot less stress within the cab.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 13:23
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 13:24
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 13:25
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 13:26
And Ben, the new postal reform legislation passed Congress. Can you share some details and what's next with the legislation?
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 13:33
Yeah, be glad to, and this is some information that we got this week, a little bit more about finances, but of course, you know, it really is on the transportation and trucking side, because the Postal Service of is one of the biggest carriers of, you know, letters and packages in the country still. But despite that size, one of the topics we've been covering for years is a continued difficulty that the Postal Service has at turning a profit, or even just avoiding deep losses. Now, some of its challenges have to do with the greater market, since fewer people are buying stamps to mail letters nowadays in the age of email, and, at the same time, people are ordering a lot more e-commerce parcels online. The Postal Service is obviously a historically old network. It's designed to run profitably handling those paper letters, but it costs a lot more for it to run packages through its system, so those trends are not helpful. But the U.S. Postal Service also struggles with accounting details that make its books really hard to balance. So this week, we heard the U.S. Senate had passed a bill to address that. It had also passed the U.S. House recently, and now it's bound for the White House, where President Biden is expected to sign it, and this legislation could make that part of the challenge much easier. Here's how the new law could help: The USPS has struggled since 2006 with a previous directive from Congress. They've had to prefund its employee health and retirement sector with a fund 75 years ahead, which is pretty much unheard of in the public sector or for the private sector, too, for that matter. But the act, the new one would end that requirement and switch Postal Service employees over to Medicare instead of remaining on the postal benefit plan. It would also require that the Postal Service continues to deliver mail six days a week to all those 161 million addresses that it reaches daily nationwide. And the Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, is in favor of this approach, and he said that, combined with his 10-year reform plan for the internal operations of the agency, such as improving that parcel-handling capability we talked about, that the agency will now be able to self fund its operations for many decades to come.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 15:51
Well, those sound like easy solutions, so one might speculate that this would mean that all [the] Postal Service's problems will be solved once the bill's signed—but not really, right?
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 16:00
If only it were that easy. That's exactly right. For example, several of the details in DeJoy's 10-year reform plan have gotten some debate and pushback from various parties. One example is that the Postal Service plans to soon replace its huge fleet of mail trucks, but its current plan is to do so largely with gas-burning vehicles, which runs against other trends to reduce emissions and carbon footprints. So, the Postal Service is under pressure to change that order to more, or all, electric vehicles. Also, those improvements that we mentioned about improving parcel-handling efficiencies could allow USPS to handle packages better in terms of finance, but they would lead to slower delivery times, on average, than is currently under offer. To balance that out, USPS just two weeks ago released a new plan to offer expedited services for e-commerce mailings, but that means they'll increasingly have to compete with the commercial carriers, the UPSes, and FedEx, and the regional carriers of the world. To underline some of those future challenges, there's an industry advocacy group called Keep US Posted that made a similar point. They said that more work is still required. For example, a call for additional action for the Postal Regulatory Commission to set accurate rate caps for mail products. And the Keep US Posted group's executive director is a guy named Kevin Yoder—he's a former U.S. Congressman himself—and he said that Congress should be prepared to consider additional legislation to keep ensuring that the USPS can prosper in what he called a "dynamic economy" and respond to challenges in the future. He pointed out that passing meaningful postal legislation should not be a once-in-a-generation event. So, it sounds like some real progress this week, and hopefully, as expected, it'll soon become law, but there's still plenty of improvement to do in the future.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 17:58
Right. Well, it took a long time for the Postal Service to get to this point. I'm sure some additional work would be needed to keep it on an even keel. Thanks, Ben.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 18:06
Glad to do it.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 18:07
We encourage listeners to go to DCVelocity.com for more on these and other supply chain stories. And check out also the podcast Notes section for some direct links on the topics that we discussed today.
And our thanks to Lindsey Trent of the Next Generation [in] Trucking Association for being with us today. We welcome your comments on this topic and our other stories. You can email us at email@example.com.
We also encourage you to subscribe to Logistics Matters at your favorite podcast platform. Our new episodes are uploaded each Friday.
And, speaking of subscribing, we encourage you to check out our new sister podcast series, Supply Chain in the Fast Lane. It's coproduced by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals and Supply Chain Quarterly. The initial series looks at the state of logistics. It premiered this past Tuesday with a discussion of the current status of inventories. Next Tuesday we'll be looking at the rough waters of ocean shipping. Subscribe to Supply Chain in the Fast Lane wherever you get your podcasts.
And a reminder that Logistics Matters is sponsored by Beckhoff. Discover intralogistics automation without limits. Beckhoff offers complete, ultracompact motion-control systems for automated material handling equipment, including a range of space-saving motor and drive solutions for BLDC, MDR, servo technology, and more. Make your move to better motion control by visiting Beckhoff.com/intralogistics.We'll be back again next week with another edition of Logistics Matters, so be sure to join us. Until then, please stay well and have a great week