Faced with a worsening shortage of long-haul truck drivers, freight carriers are turning to the RV generation, aggressively recruiting older couples like the Fords to climb behind the wheel. Schneider National Inc., the Green Bay, Wis., company that hired the Fords and put them through driving school, fishes for applicants through AARP, the advocacy group for people 50 and older, and has a Web page for "mature workers." This fall, the American Trucking Association plans a billboard and television ad blitz to lure older drivers.
"We just thought if Ma and Pa can drive the Winnebago, maybe they can drive the 18-wheeler," says Tim Lynch, a senior vice president at the trade group.
Since 2000, the number of service and truck drivers 55 or older has surged 19%, to about 616,000, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The percentage jump is quadruple that of truck drivers overall. At Schneider, about 3,000 of the carrier's 15,000 drivers and independent contractors are older people.
The hiring binge has dramatically increased the number of husband-and-wife driving teams, and truck makers are trying to make their big rigs feel more like rolling homes away from home. Paccar Inc.'s Kenworth Truck Co. unit introduced a new model in March with leather beds and heated seats. Volvo Trucks North America, part of AB Volvo, has begun production of trucks with a full-size bed in the cab comfortable for couples.
Something for me to propose to the Voxwife, for our later years.