Image and culture with Load One — Taking the Hire Road

LoadOne CEO John Elliott joined this week’s episode of Taking the Hire Road to discuss driver recruiting and retention, as well as TCA’s outreach programs with host Jeremy Reymer, founder and CEO of DriverReach.

As a trucking industry leader, Elliott remains dedicated to improving driver recruiting and retention. Reymer asked for his thoughts on efforts to reduce the minimum age for interstate CDL drivers from 21 to 18. 

With so many angles to consider, tackling the issue remains a complex challenge, Elliott replied. Case in point: it doesn’t make sense that a young driver in Michigan could drive 600 miles through the state’s Upper Peninsula but can’t drive 45 minutes to Toledo, Ohio. However, Elliott added that young drivers make him nervous, noting that a lack of data on the demographic’s accident rates makes him uneasy to go into things “blindfolded.”

“On the other hand, we have a desperate need for drivers,” Elliott said. “Playing devil’s advocate, we’ll take a kid right out of high school, put them in the military and teach them to drive a multi-million dollar tank.”

With supporters of the DRIVE-Safe Act calling for mandatory training for young drivers, including mandatory training on vehicles with the latest technology, Elliott attributed its proposal for greater training safety elements as a “strong offset” to the debate. 

“We’re pretty much the only industry that you can’t enter after graduating high school — nuclear power plants may be the only other one I can think of where you have to be 21,” Elliott said.

He added that the three-year gap between high school and when drivers can run interstate is a “dead period” for so much talent, because teenagers often leave for another industry or college and never consider trucking again. Elliott said it’s a shame, considering that so many spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for less-fulfilling jobs.

“It’s a good industry,” he said. “It’s just that our rules today make it a challenge for ourselves.”

Elliott currently serves as first vice chairman of the Truckload Carriers Association but will ascend to chairman in less than a year. He praised its collaboration with the Trucking Moves America Forward (TMAF) movement for promoting a positive image of the industry. Elliott also spoke highly of TCA’s Highway Angel program, as well as its Wreaths Across America rally, which encourages truckers to haul remembrance wreaths each December and holds a wreath-laying ceremony each year at Arlington National Cemetery. 

“People want to work for or with a company that takes part in good things,” Elliott said. “Anybody can move freight from A to B, but I think it’s really more the fact of what you do holistically as a company that matters.”

Elliott said that participating in events like these inadvertently strengthen retention efforts, as drivers form bonds with each other over a good cause. As a veteran himself, he said that Wreaths Across America is very dear to him, as he enjoys seeing his company take pride in the sacred honor of transporting wreaths across the country — especially for over-the-road drivers who don’t typically have the time to take part in such events.

“We’ll charter one or two tour buses every year to go up to this cemetery in Michigan so that our employees can take part in helping lay wreaths,” Elliott said. “We’ve been blessed to participate for a long time in the convoy at Arlington. Going there for many years, it’s hard to explain how an event like that touches you.”

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