Clash of the generations

Carolyn Magner and Misty Bell | July 01, 2010

— Bill Perkins, 58, West Point, Ga., leased to Steelman Transportation

Back in the days they didn’t have that much safety precaution like they do now. The federal regulations are strict on a lot of these trucks right now for one thing, to make it more safe on the road. The older guys, they don’t like the new rules as it is now. It helps us out, and it’s good for us. [Before it was] the more miles you turn, the more money you get — well now you can’t really do that. You have to go by the rules and regulations now.

— Anthony Jackson, 33, Greensboro, Ala., leased to A&P Trucking

The biggest thing is they harp on the young drivers a lot. They think we don’t know what we’re doing. They think we just don’t have a clue, like we’re just in the wrong business. And some of them think that they should move the age up to be a truck driver. They still feel like we’re a liability, like we’re still some young teenager. But I feel like I can accomplish it just as good as an older man can. I do just as good of a job as they do, I feel like.

— Parbin Williams, 22, Dothan, Ala., company driver for TransAm

Trainer Point of View

Rick Hodge of Central Oregon Truck Co. trained flatbed drivers of various ages for six years. Here’s what he observed as a trainer:

Work ethic: “I have found that older drivers are more driven to working hard, and younger drivers tend to be more geared to having fun. There does seem to be a group of the newest drivers that appear to be reverting to the hard work ethic of the past. I have found older drivers usually dress better but are also more likely to let personal hygiene fall by the wayside to get a few more miles. The middle of the road age (30 to 45) dress more like bikers, but are usually clean. They appear rough with longer hair and beards, but are clean. The younger drivers are more likely to wear slogan and derogatory shirts, but are clean.

Mechanical skills: “Mechanical skills definitely are stronger with the older drivers. They seem to have more of a problem-solving mind than the younger drivers. Younger drivers are more likely to take someone’s word on how to fix something. I do believe this comes from companies who do not want drivers to ‘turn wrenches.’ “

Technology: “Younger drivers are more technologically savvy, but I do find it true that more young drivers do not know how to read a map and get themselves in trouble because they followed their Garmin. A GPS unit can be a very useful tool if someone knows how to use it in conjunction with a good old-fashioned atlas. The younger group is also more likely to miss appointments because they got caught up playing online video games.”

Professional: “Those who have spent time (more than four years) in the military tend to be hard workers and have a strong will to do things by the book, or in this case the company manual. They also tend to be the most professional in attire and manner, and know how to use technical breakthroughs with good old fashioned and proven ways of driving.”