Date Posted

July 26, 2022

Dave Elniski
AMTA Industry Advisor, Safety & Compliance

This article has been accepted for publication by CVSA’s Guardian magazine; their digital editions can be accessed at this link.

Research is interesting.  With the exception of discoveries that are completely new to humankind, there are two ways we research: working independently to repeat someone else’s prior discovery, or asking those who already know.

Most day-to-day research a carrier’s interested in is where the company is trying to learn what someone else already knows.  For example, a safety professional may be looking for a solution to reduce the rate of falls that occur in the yard when the ground is icy.  Other safety professionals already know ways to address this concern.  There are likely best practices in existence.  In this example, the first safety professional just needs to find the right person to ask.

Carriers, like individuals, don’t need to figure out all the answers for themselves, pretending like they’re the first to encounter a certain problem.  Answers are probably out there.  Professional networks and industry events are great things for this reason: they connect different people who, together, probably do know just about everything there is to know about the industry but can only access this knowledge by leaning on each other.

But carriers may not need to always look to external contacts.  It is common in company founder biographies for a company founder to reflect, perhaps as they plan to leave the business, on times their company “learned” during times of change and increase their corporate knowledge as a result.  Corporate knowledge isn’t simply the sum of the knowledge of all staff at the current moment, though.  It is only the part of this sum that the company is aware of and can access.

Trucking has an aging workforce, a fact frequently used to sound the alarm over future labour shortages.  While often framed negatively, carriers and individuals need to see an aging workforce as a tremendous strength.  People with long tenures in the industry have amassed great personal knowledge, a valuable resource available to the industry.  Other industries would be so lucky to have as much accumulated wisdom as we do.  But, this resource is nonrenewable because of two main factors: attrition and disrespect.

Attrition, the slow diminishment of an experienced workforce through retirement, takes fountains of knowledge from the industry every day.  Chances are you, the reader, can think of an example of someone who has spent a long time in an industry and become extremely knowledgeable about it.  Think of the tips, tricks, and solutions a 30-year highway professional possesses as a result of facing countless challenges head-on.  There’s a good chance they’ve personally seen solutions to problems that exist at their current employer.  This type of professional is a consultant on retainer – if the carrier knows how to appreciate them.

It’s probably easy to understand how attrition is a factor in knowledge loss.  What is just as critical to understand, but is much more insidious, is disrespect.  Does the experienced professional mentioned in the previous paragraph feel their input is welcomed?  Do they believe they will be shown respect for proposing a solution to a problem?  If they do not, why would they help?

It may be arguable that North America’s trucking industry needs more new drivers.  But it is certainly overflowing with experienced professionals willing to step into the role of mentor to guide tomorrow’s drivers and today’s leaders.  All that’s needed is to ask and listen.