'This could be a good life': Small Fleet Champ's vision for the next generation of truck operators

Updated Jan 22, 2022

Silver Creek Transportation owner/leader and 2021 Overdrive Small Fleet Champ winner Jason Cowan has a prime personal goal for his business and the wider industry to bring younger people into trucking. Today, all too often barriers to employment before 25 for small fleets -- insurability, chiefly, but also age limits for interstate CDLs starting at 21-year-olds and up -- mean that many don't get exposure to the business before it's too late and they're off on a different career path.

As he notes in the video above, part of a panel discussion hosted at Overdrive sister publication CCJ's "Solutions Summit" in December 2021, "maybe a lot of young folks don’t realize the amount of money there is to be made" behind the wheel of a big truck. Cowan and company have acted on a variety of ideas, from sending teams to local schools and hiring on younger folks in the office to give them a taste of the business to emphasizing technological aspects of driving today's equipment.

"How can we use the technology to help bring the younger generation into the industry?" he asked.

The ultimate goal: allow prospective drivers the space to "adapt to the vision that, you know, this could be a good life" behind the wheel.

Approaches to retention of Cowan's best talent at Silver Creek, meanwhile, come with a focus less on those top performers but an exercise in closer relationships with what he calls the "bottom third" of the company's employed truck drivers. That bottom third is where what little turnover the nearly 30-truck company has -- 20% annualized this past year -- happens.

Asked the small fleet owner: "How can we move the bottom third of our driver pool that’s turning over, how can we get them to the next tier" and more likely to stick around and improve as drivers, as men and women more fundamentally, too?

Silver Creek has found better relationships, fostered through close, effective communication, is what underscores a long-term stint of employment there behind the wheel. 

[Related: Small fleet roundtable: Benefits of 'co-opetition' code, balancing personal/business pursuits, tech challenges, more]