After graduating from college, a young adult can expect to earn, on average, a starting salary of about $45,000.  The caveat is that the new grad is laden with almost $30,000 in debt.  The average young adult, without attending college, can expect to earn a starting salary of $45,000 as a truck driver.  But despite the fact that the starting salary is the same, but no massive debt repayments are required, young adults in their 20’s are passing on the truck driving jobs.  The reasons run deep.

Poor Management

Truck driving management hasn’t changed much in the past 30 years.  Tactics that worked in the 1980’s and 1990’s simply don’t work as well today.  This means that new truck drivers become fed up and move along to a job that works better for them.

Now this isn’t a problem that is specifically related to the trucking industry.  But with little work experience, young people feel they may be better off in a different industry.  What they often find out is that poor management is everywhere, but after a poor experience in trucking, they may never want to go back.

Why Young Adults Aren't Interested in Trucking

Worldview Change

40 or 50 years ago people’s worldviews were vastly different.  People understood that sometimes you had to be away from home for long periods of time in order to bring in the money needed to support your family.  Today, being apart is frowned upon by more people.  This means that the long hours, and days away from home and family, are not appealing to younger people; even if the pay is better than most other jobs.

Despite the prevalence of social media and despite the connection that people have through their phone, these long hours away from home are still a deterrent to those who have never been away from home before.


Many younger people want what they want, and they want it now.  Immediate gratification is a deterrent of building a career no matter what the industry.  But driving has a few more regulations that prevent those who would otherwise be interested.

For instance, a young person who is 18 years old simply cannot get into OTR trucking, no matter how much they love the industry.  The 21 and older laws push a number of potential truckers into different industries.  Suppose someone does wait, but then they have to spend a few thousand of their own money to learn how to drive and to obtain their CDL.  They need a job now to pay the bills, and they can’t go without pay during the training period.  Top all of that off with regulations that require no driving blemishes, and younger people who would otherwise make great drivers, but they made a stupid mistake in their teens, are no longer eligible to drive.


But it isn’t all just the fault of regulations and the industry.  There is a certain amount of laziness involved too.  Being on the road all day long is hard work, so often those in their 20’s will take a job that pays less, but also requires less work.

How to Inspire the Younger Generation

So how does the trucking industry, as a whole, show the younger generation that truck driving is a great job?  The answer has just as many moving parts as the problem.

Those in their 20’s need to be shown the perks of the job, rather than focusing on the pitfalls.  Trucking can be a rewarding career where the young person gets to travel and see the country.  Every job is going to require hard work, it is not industry specific.  And the only way that poor management will change is by having those “in the field” give feedback on what needs to change.

What barriers did you have to overcome to start your truck driving career?

Note: Make sure you read Henry Albert's article where his 21 year old son talks about his views of the industry. This shows that there is hope. but the industry needs more kids like Austin.

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Comments (5)

Dan White

After graduating from the University of Tennessee with a degree in Transportation, Dan spent 28 years in the traffic organization at Western Electric, AT&T and Lucent Technologies. He also spent one year as a Dispatch and Warehouse Manager for North American Van Lines. Dan has worked for ATBS since 2004 and helps drivers who are struggling in their business and need in-depth assistance to get back on their feet. He uses his previous experience and knowledge of business management and the trucking industry to assist drivers.

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True, but the problem could very well be related to management not being able to relate to the responsibility the driver is faced with. The best managers in the transportation (trucking) biz will hands down be those that once drove a big rig, and hold a CDL license. Another bad factor drivers are facing is micro-management. No one wants a camera in the face for 12 hours a day. We understand that the camera helps the insurance companies, on the trucks hood it's ok, but as the camera is in the drivers face it becomes an invasion of privacy. No office worker would accept the (in your face camera) in their cube, or office space as they work.
I worked as a CDL instructor for a local community college, it seemed that many of the students were expecting a type of get rich quick setup after obtaining a CDL license. The idea was based upon (pie in the sky) news paper and recruiting ads from different entities. Many grads expected to earn close to 50k plus, or more after a six week accelerated CDL course. I write this because this is what students told me. Many of the truck driving school graduates quit driving after the first couple of months with a carrier, once the difficulties of being a driver in training were experienced. Overall, very few students were ready for the job after four to six short weeks of training. Many students had difficulties just making it through the initial pre-trip portion of the states exam. The skills or road portion of the state CDL test was a (beast) for many students. In my opinion there was not enough time behind the wheel being required by the state to prepare the students for real world big rig ops, which eventually led to the students becoming aggravated and discouraged.

May 27, 2015 12:04:52 PM

The issue comes down to "why am I working so hard for so little money?" In one week, my youngest son is graduating from law school. In short, he sees a return on his investment (time and money).

May 05, 2015 20:14:16 PM

I totally disagree with this article. I know plenty of 20 something people that are in the industry or getting into it myself included. I don't know what more I could say about it other than what my boyfriends dad and fiancee told me. You either will like it or you won't its totally based on how you are as a person and whether you can handle driving for long hours and not being home.

April 30, 2015 15:54:57 PM

Interesting that you would use the words "poor management". Back in the late '70's Carretta Trucking had advertising on a lot of their trailers to come work for them and earn $48,000 a year. Three and a half decades later many drivers are still not earning that much money per year. If you correct for inflation over that time period, that salary becomes around $120,000, which no, or very few company drivers earn. Now how many upper management folks in trucking are still making the same wage as 1979? Drivers are the ones who have been kept poor, not management. At $120,000 a year I bet a whole different caliber of people would be interested in driving, including 20 somethings.

April 13, 2015 20:45:38 PM

If those of us who try to project a positive image of the trucking industry were more prevalent, maybe the attitudes of the younger generations would change. Nowadays, there are more sources for positive information about trucking, but the black eyes from the past are hard to shake off. It really doesn't help when most of the news reported about truck drivers is negative. There are a lot of great, honest. dedicated, hard working drivers out here that get lumped in with all those drivers who shouldn't even be driving a car, less known a truck.

April 07, 2015 17:14:05 PM