There is a large shortage of truck drivers due to an aging workforce (the average age of a truck driver is around 56), a lack of desirability to be a truck driver, take-home page that is only good if you work long hours, and the potential of days away from your home.
However, trucking, if done well, can be lucrative and rewarding.
In the ‘70s and ‘80s, trucking was popular. Movies such as Convoy and Smokey and the Bandit glamourised trucking. Men (predominantly) were attracted to the independence, life on the open road and the autonomy of driving. Wages were sufficient to support a family, and there was plenty of work. Fast forward to the 2020s and kids are much less interested; they are more likely to want to be an influencer or content creator than a truck driver.
The industry has its challenges with a massive gender imbalance and the prevailing attitudes, however, autonomous trucks (in any level of mass adoption) are years and years away, and even then it will be for specialist applications only, so there will be work for truck drivers for many years to come.
Opportunities exist in segments of the market where the lifestyle and earnings can be appealing. All that’s needed is some time to work through the lower rungs of the ladder, and a bit of tenacity in pursuing the right jobs. One option is in driver training and assessment.
Driver trainer or instructor
A heavy vehicle driving instructor must held a heavy vehicle licence for the required minimum amount of time and pass a driving instructor qualification. However, to be a credible truck driving instructor, some experience actually doing the job is required. Driver trainers without much experience will find it more difficult to gain credibility when asked to train or assess a driver that has been driving for decades.
If an instructor can train on more than just driving a truck, then they are a specialist driver trainer rather than just a driving instructor; this might require additional qualifications.
Driver trainers are either self-employed, employed by a training company, or employed as a trainer by something like a freight and transport company for the purposes of training their own drivers. A complaint by trainers employed by transport companies is that they frequently end up driving, not training, because they are filling in for holidays or sickness by other drivers.
Driver trainers don’t have as many pressures related to making deliveries and dealing with traffic when they are training. Trainers deal with a wide variety of people of differing socioeconomic and academic backgrounds and therefore need to be empathetic to different people’s learning abilities, and be good with people.
Pick the job carefully – the best ones will give a lot of variety, not just endless licensing courses. The most coveted positions will see a lot of interaction with specific business clients, not the general public, where you could be showing someone how to reverse and jackknife a truck and trailer one day, be on the racetrack on a rollover course the next day, and then doing a post-incident driver evaluation the day after. This makes for interesting work and the pay is commensurate with your experience.
An alternative to a registered driver training is what might be called an in-house trainer or assessor. The requirements are much less, but some form of adult education qualification is desirable. In-house trainers are people that provide advice and induction on specific machines and vehicles. This role might fall to someone who is highly experienced but doesn’t want to go to the expense and time commitment of completing a qualification.
Becoming a driver trainer takes some effort and time. For someone in their late teens, the pathway could take 8-10 years as it will involve acquiring the relevant qualifications and experience in heavy vehicles. However, for someone who is already an experienced truck driver, the pathway can be as little as a few months. It can provide a much more desirable lifestyle than a truck driver while still being around trucks and driving.