Two trucking associations, including an Indiana based group, have forged an alliance to help solve a workforce shortage in the trucking industry by engaging high school students. The Future Leaders of Indiana, a council within the Indiana Motor Truck Association, is partnering with Next Generation in Trucking Association. NextGen is a newly formed, nonprofit trade association with the mission to promote trucking as a positive career field.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, NextGen co-founder Lindsey Trent explained trucking is not often part of career programs taught at high school level.

“There’s a lot of other industries represented in career technical education, like construction and woodworking, welding, automotive technology, but the trucking industry is really underrepresented,” said Trent. “There are huge needs within the trucking industry for skilled workers. But there isn’t enough outlets for young people to learn about the trucking industry.”

The organization wants to create technical education programming for the trucking industry and assist high schools across the country to implement curriculum. It could also expand to community colleges.

“Not only work with high schools here in Indiana, but work with the Lincoln Techs and the Ivy Techs of the world. Ivy Tech is one of the most respected and successful community colleges in the country. There’s no reason why Indiana should not be at the center of this as the ‘Crossroads of America,” said Matt Cavell, vice chair of the IMTA’s Future Leaders of Indiana Council.

NextGen is projecting a shortage of 174,000 truck drivers in the U.S. by 2026. Some of the shortage is attributed to retirement. Barbara Smithers, vice president of the Indiana Motor Truck Association, says the average age of drivers is in their mid-50s. She says the industry needs to work harder to attract drivers at a younger age.

“A lot of times we’ll lose those individuals to other career opportunities, other trades, and they don’t really know much about the trucking industry to ever consider coming into it after they’ve already started their career,” said Smithers.

The program is also geared towards attracting more technicians to work on trucks. According to Trent, the industry needs to hire 67,000 new technicians by 2022.

Cavell says for some high school students, college or military service is the next logical choice. He says this program fills a void for students who do not want either of those pathways.

You know where is a kid’s going to go if they don’t go to college if they don’t go in the military? Between (the ages of) 18 and 21 there needs to be another spot for that. And trucking provides that,” said Cavell.

Click here to learn more about NextGen and click here to read about IMTA’s Future Leaders of Indiana Council.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, NextGen co-founder and President Lindsey Trent explained trucking is not often part of career tech programs taught at the high school level.