The trucking industry’s percentage of African American drivers is almost the same as the general population—which is one reason why your recruiting should reflect that level of diversity.
If you asked me, this isn’t a race issue at all; it’s human nature: People tend to connect more easily with people similar to themselves.
Statistics tell us that the trucking industry’s percentage of black truck drivers is remarkably similar to the population as a whole—so we can reasonably conclude that the reality of industry diversity is far from any stereotypes the general population may have about truckers being overwhelmingly white.
According to a 2005 article published by the American Trucking Associations, African Americans represent 11.7 percent of long-haul drivers. Whereas the US Census Bureau, as of July 1, 2009, reported that black citizens made up 12.9 percent of the total U.S. population.
And yet, out of all the fine trucking companies I’ve known over the years, and of all the good people I’ve known in recruiting, I can count the number black recruiters I know on two fingers. One of whom is Oakley Trucking’s Randolph Rochelle.
This naturally led me to conclude that Randolph gives Oakley a decided advantage when it comes to recruiting black drivers—again, based simply on human nature. I was curious if Randolph felt the same way. He agreed that, all other things being equal, his background often did give Oakley an advantage over other carriers in competing for good black candidates.
“Since we have a lot of life and cultural experiences in common, that can make it easier for me to start a real dialogue with black drivers. You might say we speak the same language. And if there’s one thing that’s important to all drivers, no matter who they are, it’s working with people who understand where they’re coming from.”
“At the same time,” Randolph is quick to point out, “I feel like I can relate to just about anybody—no matter who they are.” He certainly brings a broad range of experience to any conversation with prospective drivers: During his 20-plus years with Oakley, Randall’s served the company in a number of capacities—ranging from Owner Operator to Manager of one of the company’s ports.
In the final analysis, successfully recruiting any truck driver starts the same way: With good communication.
So does that mean your next Recruiting Department hire should be African American, for no other reason than the color of his or her skin? Of course not.
On the other hand, it certainly doesn’t hurt to ensure that your recruiting materials and messaging reflect the diversity level of your driver workforce. But as I’ve indicated elsewhere in this space, whatever you do in that area has to be genuine. Otherwise, it’s ultimately going to feel either crass and calculated or “politically correct”. And these days, folks can spot phonies a mile away. No matter what color they are.
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