Next Gen Trucking - The DL S4E9

Next Gen Trucking - The DL S4E9 is now available on your favorite podcast app! 

In this episode of The DL, Diesel Laptops’ Founder and CEO, Tyler Robertson, is joined by Lindsey Trent, President & Co-Founder of Next Gen Trucking.

The Next Generation in Trucking Association is a non-profit trade association who is engaging and training the next generation of trucking industry professionals by partnering with high schools, community/technical colleges and private schools to launch training programs around the United States.

As always, thank you for watching and listening!

Connect with Lindsey Trent & Next Gen Trucking:

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Transcript for Next Gen Trucking - The DL S4E9:

Tyler Robertson:

Our industry is screwed. All right? I don't know how many different ways I can say that. I don't know how many different guests I can bring on the show to talk about diesel technician shortage, skill trade shortages, driver shortages. And what our industry needs to fix it is, first of all, not government intervention. They haven't done a great job in a lot of things, and they're not going to be able to fix it. But what it needs is champions. It needs people, a lot of people, not just one person spreading the message.

So if you've watch or followed, you know we've had Mike Rowe. We've done things with him before. We're contributor to the Mikeroweworks Foundation. Great guy. Obviously out there beating that drum probably harder than anybody I've ever met and is passionate about it. We've had Tim Spurlock on these episodes. Again, finding ways to make diesel technicians enter the market and not cost them anything to do it, right?

So you're going to hearing this interview, someone that is just as passionate as all those people. All right? So, Lindsey Trent with Next Gen Trucking is on this. You will see loud and clear how much she cares about making this a better situation for everybody. And it's a real problem, and it's a problem that's getting worse. And she'll throw this stat out in the interview that we do with here, here. But this all comes down to the fact that we have with truck drivers, diesel techs. You can pick a trade skill, essentially.

We have a problem where diesel techs, 98% are male. I believe in the podcast, I'll tell you about 89% of truck drivers are male. I can only imagine it's the same for carpenters, and pipe layers, and equipment operators. The stats probably aren't all that different. And it's an industry that all these industries, it's going to be almost impossible to fix when you neglect half the industry that's doing these jobs or half the population that's doing these.

So I'm really excited about what she's doing. She's taking a different angle than the rest of us, which is great. We need people taking different angles at the same problem. So I hope you really enjoy the episode. If you want to be part of the solution, not the problem, I really recommend you reach out to Lindsey and see what you can do to help. And there's things that don't cost you money. Yeah, maybe we need some of your time, but you're really putting an investment in the future of maybe, not only your kids, but your kids' kids, and everybody else. So enjoy the episode, again, I think you're really going to like it. So without further ado, here you go.

Welcome to the DL. I am your host, Tyler Robertson, the CEO and founder of Diesel Laptops. And while I and my company mainly focus on what happens when these things break down and go bad, we all got to remember there's a human in the seat driving these trucks around. We don't have robots driving trucks yet. Obviously, we've had episodes where we've talked about that. But we have a huge problem out there and there's people that are trying to bring solutions to the market trying to help alleviate this problem. And I have one of them with me here today. So I have Lindsey Trent with Next Gen Trucking on here. Welcome to the show, Lindsey.

Lindsey Trent:

Hey, thanks for having me. I'm super excited to be here talking to you.

Tyler Robertson:

So Next Gen Trucking, what is that?

Lindsey Trent:

We are a grassroots movement. We recently formed all 100% volunteers, really seeing the industry-wide problem with no solution and wanting to create an industry-wide solution. So there are a lot of things maybe on the East Coast or West Coast, but we felt like there needed to be more of a cohesive solution to the workforce shortage, the aging population of truck drivers, diesel technicians, skilled laborers. And just young people don't know about the trucking industry. So we formed as an organization, a non-profit, to really start focusing on raising awareness about trucking careers and then also creating programs, focusing on high schools, where they have diesel tech programs, creating truck driver training programs in high school supply chain programs. So really putting a strong emphasis on career technical education while young people are in high school. And then, hopefully, they can graduate and start working in our industry.

Tyler Robertson:

So let's talk about truck drivers for a second. I kind of know the numbers for diesel technician shortages. I see the headlines when it comes to not enough drivers. Obviously, COVID, there was all kinds of things going on in the media about not enough drivers and all these things. How bad is it? Are we just short a bunch of them? It seems like it's a high turnover industry in some regards as well. Can you break it down a little bit for us?

Lindsey Trent:

Yeah. We are 80,000 drivers short today. I think by 2030, we're going to be 130,000 drivers short. And then capacity is increasing. Our workforce is aging. This is more of a skilled workforce statistic. But with every six skilled workers that retire, there are only two skilled workers to replace them. And so, there's a huge shortage of skilled workers in general, and we're really feeling it in the trucking industry. And so, we want to raise that awareness and get these young people in these great programs, in these careers that are high-skill, high-wage, high-demand, so that we can have a future in trucking and really connect these young people to great careers. We have great careers with lots of room for growth if they want it, but they could also be a diesel tech or a CDL driver their entire career and make a great living. So just really getting young people interested in our careers.

Tyler Robertson:

So, say I'm someone that's never driven a truck before. Well, say I'm 21 so I can do interstate stuff here. What's the process? How long does it take for someone to go from, I know nothing to, I'm on my own out here cowboying and around the lower 48?

Lindsey Trent:

Yeah. They would typically go to a CDL school, a private driving school, or a community college. A lot of times that's four to six weeks of training. And then, ideally, they'd go to a company where they could be in a registered apprenticeship program and have a lot of extra training. A lot of training programs are three months, where they have a mentor they ride with for four to six weeks. So the process is probably going to take four to six months to start feeling comfortable. And hopefully, there is a lot of oversight into that because we don't want just drivers out there on the road. We want skilled people who are trained and who are safe. So really trying to build those elements around these programs.

Tyler Robertson:

Yeah, I mean, 100% agree. It is definitely a skill to be able to take an 80,000 pound truck with a 53 foot trailer on it and back it in somewhere and not have things go bad. I think we all see the videos and photos on Facebook pages and YouTube, but there is a skill to it that I think people don't really appreciate until they're sitting in the driver's seat of one of these things.

So are you focused then? Is this mainly over the road that you're talking about when you're trying to these things? Or is there also the vocational home every night stuff? We were talking before we went live here, my dad owns a bunch of ReadyMix trucks and they're union, most of the company's union, and they can't find them. And it's a skill set that's getting, harder, and harder, and harder to find. So is it focused on all these? And I heard you mentioned diesel techs and some other things. Are you guys across the board, or is the main focus really like the commercial truck driver?

Lindsey Trent:

Honestly, our focus is to partner with high school programs. We've found about 200 high school diesel tech programs across the country. There's about 15 CDL and 15 supply chain. And so, we are trying to partner with all of those that are in existence, but then also create more. So, Dave and I, Dave's my co-founder, he's a high school truck driving teacher at Patterson High School in California, we've met with over 70 high schools that are interested in starting truck driver training programs. And so, creating more of these programs to get these young people trained while they are in high school. And then, when they graduate, they can go working right away.

Now, we know that there's a problem being able to drive interstate. So either trying to find those companies where they can drive intrastate and they can work for them between 18 and 20. There's also the new safe driver apprenticeship pilot program that just opened up through the FMCSA, where there's 3,000 18 to 20 year olds that are going to be able to drive interstate. And it's really so we can get the data to find out if they're going to be just as safe as, say, a 25 year old who goes and becomes a truck driver. And so, I really do think in five years, we're going to see that 18 year olds are going to be able to drive interstate.

So what we're trying to do is have some of these programs up and running and create more interest with young people to get their CDL so that we can produce a really safe, well-rounded, young person who knows about being a professional truck driver. So it's really about getting more young people interested in trucking and then creating the programs at high schools so that they can become our future trucking workforce.

So I'm on the advisory board of several of my local high school diesel tech programs. There's a high school here in Louisville where I helped them start their diesel tech program. And it's a three-year program while they're in high school. They go either every morning or every afternoon. And these young people really have great skills to come out and start working right away for local trucking companies or dealers. And so, having more of these programs and then making sure that the industry is connected to these programs. So all of these programs have advisory boards, and they have career fairs, and they really want to connect their students to good jobs.

Tyler Robertson:

Yeah. I've always said with 18, 19, 20 year olds, look, if they're old enough to vote, they're done with high school, they can serve in the military, they probably can drive a truck, right? So we just need to get the right skill set. You need the right people to do these things.

And I think I want to talk about one point. I've had Eric Rubio on the podcast. I've talked to him a bunch. They had a great high school program out in California. And a big part of it, the conversation I had with him, was just the stigma around being a diesel tech or a truck driver. And I know he said the first year or so there was a lot of pushback from parents like, "Hey, my kid's not going to be a diesel tech. He's going to be a doctor." Well, I'm sorry, we're not all meant to be doctors. A lot of people don't want to be a doctor, even their parents want them to.

So is there a lot of that you see at the high school level when you're going to these places where it's the parents kind of pushing back more than it is the student? Is that a legit problem? Because I imagine guidance counselors are involved in this. I've talked to Mike Row. I've had him on the podcast, and it's really frustrating what we see from our side. So I'd love to hear your impression of what you see out there since you're working with high schoolers.

Lindsey Trent:

Yeah, definitely. Parents are definitely ones that we have to work over to let them know that trucking is not what they think it is. But also, having those road teams showing them that, when you're a diesel technician, you work with a laptop. It is very high tech. The equipment's high tech. Trucks are high tech. That we're a very forward thinking industry. That their kids can make a good living with these careers and hopefully not have any student loan debt. And so, if they start off working at 18 years old and say they make $50,000 a year, well, they're a friend that is going to college four to five years later, they might have $100,000 in debt, where that other person's already saved $100,000. So being able to share with parents what their kids can make.

But we're also a part of the Association of Career Technical Education. So it's educators and administrators for schools, but we're also a part of the American School Counselors Association. So we've got to make an impact at that level with the influencers. At this point, they don't really know about the trucking industry and they push their kids to college a lot. We want them to start seeing that there's other opportunities. And we're finding that Gen Z really is questioning that model, "Do I want to go to college and you get all this student loan debt? Or do I want to start working right away?" And maybe they want to work their way through college, but have a skill to do it with. And so, providing these opportunities is what we're trying to do so that young people really know what trucking is.

Tyler Robertson:

Yeah. It's interesting, again, the parallels with what you're doing and what we're trying to do in the diesel tech space. And we believe the same thing as, hey, you got to get out there and get the message out that there's some great professions out there. And once you learn those skills, you never have to worry about a job the rest of your life. You're not going to get unemployed or hit blindsided because you just go across the street and get a job with somebody else.

So we're doing some similar things. I mean, we're trying to take a little bit different approach. We just hired a female diesel technician for home podcast show, and she's talking to diesel tech. She's talking to shop foreman. She's talking to these people just showing the story of, "Hey, this is a... Yeah, there's dirty hands, but it's clean money, and it's good money out there for people that want to do this and are willing to put forth the effort."

And I'll also go in a little bit of rant about student loans. I just today had someone in my office, and we're hiring these two positions to do course offering for some online learning content. And I go, "Well, how'd it go with the applications?" He's like, "Man, we had 150 plus people apply in three days." And he said, "We got to whittle down to about five." I'm like, "What do they look like?" He goes, "Tyler, they all have PhDs." I'm like, "This is a 40 to $50,000 job. This isn't a huge paying job." I'm like, "Why?" He goes, "I'm going to talk to him. He goes, "I know someone that literally has four degrees, a bachelor's degree, two masters, and a PhD, and they're not making that much money." And it's really a weird situation we have in American culture where you can go sign the dotted line for just basically unlimited student loans pretty much. But that same person can't go get a student loan to start a trucking company or a small business. They can't do that. So there's this huge disconnect that's happening out there.

Again, sorry, just went a little rant there about everything at all.

Lindsey Trent:

I see this, it's going to be a culture shift. Right?

Tyler Robertson:


Lindsey Trent:

Thinking that it's okay to get a PhD. Sure, if you have lots of money and you can just study and you don't need to worry about how much it costs, but we need a culture shift to say, "Hey, that doesn't make sense anymore." Statistically, hoy many jobs require a four-year degree? How many jobs require an advanced degree? If there's only 20% of jobs in a state that require a four-year degree and an advanced degree, why is 60% going to college? We've got to start shifting the culture that we've gone down. It doesn't make sense.

Tyler Robertson:

Yeah. No, I agree. I think all of our hearts are in the right place of like, hey, we got to get this message out there. The shift's been too far to go get a four-year degree no matter what. Well, that's a bad financial decision that set people up for failure for the next decade or two or three of their lives and putting behind the eight ball before it's even started. So, again, I think I could talk all day long about what I hate about our educational system. So I'll spare the audience because I'm sure I go on this random plenty of podcasts.

One of the things I'm curious about is, I mean, you guys are, like I said, grassroots, non-profit, basically trying to go nationwide here. Do you work with... I mean, every state's got at least one trucking association? Do those come into play as well, trying to work with those state level associations?

Lindsey Trent:

Yeah, definitely. I'm in Kentucky. I'm on the board of the Kentucky Trucking Association, and I work really closely with a lot of state associations. I am a firm believer in state trucking associations. They're boots on the ground, and they care about their communities and their states, and they want to get things done in their state. So it makes a lot of sense for us to work with state associations. And we work with women in trucking and the ATA, and the TCA, and NTTC, and IFTA, so we're working with a lot of associations and their members to work and push our mission.

Tyler Robertson:

I work with Tim Spurlock, American Diesel Training Centers. I feel like I mentioned him about every third podcast nowadays. But what he does is he's trying to help the solution. He built a business. And basically, he tries to find people in their mid-20s and say, "Hey, come be a diesel tech. Come to this eight or 12 week program. You pay nothing. We'll take, go to your paycheck once you're employed and doing these things." One of the big problems he's ran into is a lot of these people, it's been retention. And sometimes it's because they got through the course, then they're in the real world, and this job sucks. That's part of it. Part of it is the culture inside those shops. There's often with diesel technicians in some shops. I'm saying this is everywhere, but there's the hazing or it's the new guy or the new gal. There's that piece of it that goes along well or it's just managements jerks and force people to work.

So there's all these things that go on, but I do know that... I see the stat all the time. It seems like trucking companies have over 100% turnover when it comes to drivers every year. Is part of this in your mind at all, the retention side of it? Is that a piece of the puzzle too here that needs to get looked at? Or is that down the road thing that needs to get solved?

Lindsey Trent:

Yeah. No. I mean, retention is definitely a huge deal for trucking. One of the things that we've got on our website is a job behaviors assessment. And so, basically, we offer it to our schools that's, "Hey, if you got somebody that might want to become a diesel technician or if you're just trying to help identify people that might have that skill..." What is it called? Well, basically, we have got a diesel tech assessment, a delivery driver assessment, and over the road driver assessment. And basically, they take all of the top performers in these careers and they ask them all of these questions and they put this into an assessment. And so, skills can be taught, but intrinsically who you are inside and your behaviors make up if you would be retained in the industry. So offering this assessment helps to figure out if they would hopefully be retained in the industry and they would make a good diesel technician or a good truck driver. And so, we highly recommend using the assessment tool because we don't want to set people up for failure. We want to set them up for success.

But then, also, in terms of retention, there's a lot of changes that still need to be made in the trucking industry. And I think that we're making great strides and that we are pushing for better quality of life for these professions. And so, I think it's going to be a work in progress constantly of helping to have retention because things are better out there for them.

Tyler Robertson:

So I saw that you just were a 2022 award recipient for women in supply chain. I see on the website, one of the things you guys do is focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. I know in the diesel tech world, it's something like 98% of the people in that profession are male. And I've always said, Guys, no industry can survive with 98% of one sex do in this profession. You just eliminate half the workforce before you even got started. I got to imagine truck drivers are in a similar situation. So is that part of the solution here is encouraging women as well to be truck drivers?

Lindsey Trent:

Absolutely. I think it's 11% of drivers are female truck drivers. And so, women in trucking works really hard to bring more women into the industry. The ATA just put out a new task force called Women in Motion, trying to attract more women into the industry. And the FMCSA has even put together a group of women to bring in more diversity into the industry. So I think it's a big focus.

With the job behaviors assessment that we have that, for instance, Dave gives it to the juniors at Patterson High School. And there are females on there that test high for making a successful truck driver. And he personally invites those women, those young ladies into the program. And they have a lot of times the same reaction, "Oh, I never thought about being a truck driver, but this says I'd be good at this. And maybe I will give it a try and check it out." So it really is about making those personal connections and inviting them in, showing them that this could be a good career for them. They just need to consider it.

When I was at Skills USA, I met this darling girl, she was, I think, 17, and she wants to be a diesel technician. So she is training to be a technician in high school. And I just love talking to her. She's super excited. She loves cars. She's excited to be in diesel tech. She just thinks it's so cool. And she's really skilled already. She was taking apart an engine. And so, they're out there, but I agree, we need more.

Tyler Robertson:

Yeah, I think it's definitely part of the solution in a lot of industries in a lot of regards. So it's good to see that happening. And I know I've seen some of the numbers and reports come out. There's definitely more women now in these professions than there were five years ago and 10 years ago. So you can see the trend. It needs to go faster, I think, in a lot of people's minds, but it sounds like we're all talking the same thing from different angles, trying to make that happen.

One of the pieces I wanted to talk about is, obviously, you're out there encouraging people, you're working with high schools and working with technical colleges and doing these things. At Diesel, we have a training. We have old training division of our company where we do online training. We do hands-on training. We'll go visit customers. And a lot of it's... People think it's software, like, hey, we're teaching how to use our software that's 5% of it. It's really about just giving them how to do basic electrical, how to do electrical troubleshooting, how to troubleshoot canvas, how to diagnose hydraulic systems, these types of things because that's just a lack of a thing in the industry. No one's really done that before.

Are you guys out there helping with course content with schools as well and trying to get them involved and connecting them with the right people? Or what does that look like if someone's like, "We want to do this thing, but we don't have the curriculum to order to do this for you guys?"

Lindsey Trent:

Yeah, definitely. We highly encourage the ASE, having your program be ASE-certified, but it is a thing. Schools are looking for more curriculum, fresh curriculum. It's a digital generation, and so, they learn digitally. So they would love course content and updated course content. And so, we definitely are working to provide those connections so they can get more course content and more up-to-date learning. And there's a lot of things out there. And so, definitely trying to connect the dots for them and help them in partnerships.

We also work with all of the OEMs that have these diesel programs with their particular manufacturer. Is it Kenworth, or International, or Peterbilt? And so, making sure that schools have connections to those if they don't already. And we work with all of those OEMs. So just getting them connected to the right people.

A lot of times, the educators, they don't know who to connect to. And they'll call the local dealer maybe or they'll call somebody local, and they get the wrong answer once and then they just stop. So I'm here to help them. I say, "I know all the right people. I will help you. What do you need? We want to make your program a success. We want to make you successful. We want to make it easy for you." And so, that's what we are trying to do as an association, really bridge the gap between industry and education and make those connections.

Tyler Robertson:

Well, I'm glad you mentioned ASE. I've had George Aarons on the podcast before. I've been on some panels and some talks with him. Great guy over at ASE on the educational side. He wants to help fix this problem, I think, as passionately as any of us do. So I'm really glad you're able to bring them up and everything.

Lindsey, this has been fascinating, just kind of learning about what you guys do, and it's always exciting for me to find other people. Again, you're doing similar things to what we are and trying to help the industry move forward. And it needs more help. It needs more voice. It needs more champions. I mean, the trade skills needs more Mike Rowes out there talking about this and people understanding that there's some great careers out here for these things. So appreciate everything you're doing. And again, congrats on the award that you just received and everything.

Lindsey Trent:

Oh, thank you.

Tyler Robertson:

If people want to learn more about Next Gen Trucking, where should they go or how can they reach you? What do you want to throw out there?

Lindsey Trent:

Visit us online You can connect with me on LinkedIn, Lindsey Trent. You can follow our LinkedIn page. We're on Facebook. We're on all the social media channels. But I would love to hear from you. We send out a monthly newsletter. You can go online and sign up for our newsletter. You can join our association. So we're 100% member-supported. We're a nonprofit. So if anybody wants to join our association, we have OEMs, dealers, carriers, truck drivers, diesel technicians, allied members.

The industry really is getting behind us and supporting us in our mission. And our mission really is to reach young people and change a young person's life. If we can connect them to a trucking skill, like becoming a diesel technician or becoming a truck driver, it literally can change their entire family tree because they find something they're good at, they see success in their future, and they see a living that they can make where they're going to make a good living wage, and it literally changes these young people's lives. So that is what we are all about, getting out there and working on the mission.

So you can email me to I'd just love to hear from you guys. I'd love to partner with you. If you want to start a program in your backyard, call me. We do that every day. I'm meeting with schools daily and talking about starting programs.

Tyler Robertson:

Well, Lindsey, I thank you. The industry thanks you. Keep doing all the great work you're doing over there. You got a lot of cheerleaders here in the background pushing for you guys. So thank you for coming on the episode. For everyone watching, everyone listening, like we always say, like, comment, share, subscribe, whatever you guys are doing now on these social media channels. Thumbs up. I don't even know anymore. I'm getting old. But thank you very much for coming on. We're going to call it an episode.

And remember, it's not just diagnostics. It's diagnostics done right, But we can't even do diagnostics if we don't have truck drivers to actually go drive the trucks so that they break down or hopefully don't break down. All right? So, thank you, everyone. Catch you on the next episode.

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