Trucking is one of the most consistent growth industries in Nebraska and the United States. In fact, the Nebraska Department of Labor reports that the trucking industry is on track to add almost 3,800 new jobs between 2014 and 2024, about a 14% growth over 10 years. For Crete Carrier Corporation, that's part of a 50-plus-year history of growth that has made the company one of the largest trucking businesses in the world today.
Any number of factors feed into that success, but for Crete Carrier, it all ties back to the company's most critical asset—its people. Like other growing businesses, Crete Carrier understands that the quality of its employees informs its ability to thrive in a rapidly evolving industry. This is why the leadership at Crete Carrier is highly intentional about identifying, cultivating and retaining skilled and motivated workers—and why they're on board with Dividends Nebraska's mission to keep the state's talent pool strong for the decades ahead.
Getting the right people behind the wheel
On-the-job experience means a lot in any industry, but it's particularly important in trucking. The ability to smoothly navigate the different stages of the job—from dispatch to delivery—comes with time spent behind the wheel. Statistics also show that the longer a trucker's driving history is, the save they become in terms of crash risk. Crete Carrier's hiring policy requires that candidates not only hold their Commercial Driver's License, but also have at least one year of road experience under their belts to be considered for an open position as a driver.
But according to Curtis Ruwe, Crete Carrier's Vice President and General Counsel, the necessary skill set goes well beyond what drivers learn either in structured training programs or on the road. "To be successful, you have to be a 'people person' and be able to comfortably interact with asset managers, dispatchers, fleet managers, supervisors, the safety department and the customer," Ruwe says. That involves hiring "drivers who have the necessary communication, problem solving, time management and conflict resolution skills." Ruwe's assessment largely agrees with many of the in-demand skills and traits identified by the Nebraska Department of Labor for the trucking industry, including customer service, honesty and decision-making.
Early skills development—where the rubber meets the road
These qualities aren't easy to instill in young people who enter the job market without them. In fact, research in neural development and skills formation indicates that the optimal time to lay the groundwork for critical assets of cognition, character and conduct is in the earliest years of life. Studies show that children who begin their lives with the benefit of cognitively stimulating, emotionally warm and supportive early experiences are more likely to develop stronger empathy and analytical skills, task focus and self confidence as they continue to learn and grow. Absent these early advantages, it's much less likely that our youngest kids will one day be ready to meet the challenges of a career in trucking or other client-focused professions. For Crete Carrier, that prospect comes with some very real dollars-and-cents implications.
"We have some drivers in their early to mid-20s who are singularly responsible for a newer-model semi-tractor loaded with valuable customer assets in the trailer," Ruwe points out. "That is a ton of responsibility and potential risk, which is why we have to trust our drivers and know that they can handle all aspects of the transaction, from before pick-up to after delivery."
Preparing tomorrow's drivers for the road ahead
Rapid changes in technology seem to point toward major, corresponding developments in trucking and related fields. While the image of the solitary trucker on the open road is a common stereotype in the popular imagination, this too may eventually change with the advent of automated freight transport. Admittedly, fully autonomous, dock-to-dock freight transport may still be several decades away. However, semi-automated trucking—in which human drivers load freight and get their rigs out onto the open highway where computers can take over—is much closer on the horizon. Many trucks in Crete Carrier's fleet already have the latest in automated assistance.
Even so, the company's leadership is convinced that skilled human workers will remain a critical element in the future of the industry. "There are always going to be bills of lading that need to be completed, and discussions with the customer about the loading or condition of the freight after transit," Ruwe says. These person-to-person interactions can't be handled by machines as effectively as they are by humans, who are better able to "read" various nuances of the situation, make qualitative judgments and communicate productively with customers, dispatchers or other logistical personnel. As Ruwe points out, "I think there will always be a human component to trucking."
Freight transport will continue to need a workforce that comes equipped with crucial social, communication and analytical skills. The fact that these skills begin to take root in children's earliest developmental years is a powerful reason for Crete Carrier to help drive the mission of Dividends Nebraska in the years ahead.