Under normal circumstances, trucking and video games don’t mix. However, trucking company Schneider National has started getting creative to recruit new truck drivers. Their game “American Truck Simulator” has already sold over two million copies globally. The game lets players experience what it’s like to be a truck driver. The game involves accepting jobs and making deliveries across the US. Although the purported aim is entertainment, the ultimate goal is to encourage more young people to opt for jobs as truckers. The game even features ads for Schneider National, making it easier for players to explore their job options. Unlike many in-game ads, these appear on animated billboards that are integrated into the game. 

The question is, does this work? The company hasn’t released any data on that subject currently.  However, the combination of the game and the advertisements have likely encouraged young people to look into trucking as a possible career. After all, a lot of potential new drivers require unconventional methods of communication if they’re going to learn about this job opportunity. People who are already in the trucking business tend to be savvy about the industry.  They do this by keeping up with news for truck drivers and staying on top of emerging trends. Everyone else, on the other hand, is usually pretty oblivious.

A shortage of drivers

This unconventional method of recruiting new drivers was probably driven by the current shortage of drivers – about 80,000, according to some estimates. This number has been consistent over the last few years and isn’t showing signs of improving anytime soon. So why turn to video games? Well, it just so happens that the CDL requirements no longer specify a minimum age of 21; now the minimum is just 18 years old. And guess who’s likely to be playing a trucking simulator game? Young adults and teenagers. This represents untapped potential for the trucking industry; not only does the video game make the trucker lifestyle seem more appealing, but it also gives interested young adults an easy way to learn more about the job. 

How serious is the current truck driver shortage?

Hopefully, the video game strategy works, because the trucking industry desperately needs an influx of new drivers. Some estimates have reported that by 2030, the industry will need to add another million drivers to keep up with demand. Unfortunately, they’re struggling to keep pace with current demands, let alone grow along with future ones. 

Why there’s a shortage of truck drivers

On the surface, being a truck driver doesn’t seem all that difficult – you just sit behind the wheel for hours at a time, and make sure not to break any traffic laws. However, several different factors make the job unappealing to many.

1. The difficulty of maintaining a healthy lifestyle

A closer look at being a trucker reveals how hard it is to stay healthy, even if they make an effort to do so. For example, the mere fact that they sit for hours every day is a problem; sedentary lifestyles are known to be quite unhealthy. Then there’s the issue of nutrition. If someone spends most of their time on the road, they probably won’t have a chance to find healthy on-the-go meals, let alone prepare their own. This means they end up eating mostly fast food while on the job. Because of this, related conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure are much harder for truckers to avoid. 

Sleep deprivation is another major issue. The quality of someone’s sleep has a huge impact on their health, and long-term truck drivers can go for years with disrupted sleep schedules and poor sleep quality. Long-haul drivers often sleep in their trucks, whether they’re parked overnight, or there’s a second driver behind the wheel. Even though there are laws that limit the number of hours a trucker can drive in one day, there’s still no guarantee that they’ll get the quality of sleep they need to stay healthy.

2. Not enough time at home

Since long-haul truckers can drive hundreds of miles across the US in just one week, they often don’t get the chance to regularly spend time at home. This is a dealbreaker for a lot of people with families since they don’t want to sacrifice their home life for their job. This is bad news for the trucking industry since it prevents a lot of potential drivers from applying.

3. Not enough pay

Even though some truck drivers can earn as much as $90,000 per year, this is far from typical. Most companies start their drivers off at $40,000 per year and up, but that isn’t the whole story. Since truckers are usually paid by the mile, they don’t get compensated for time spent stuck in traffic, delays due to bad weather, etc. Some trucking companies also expect drivers to perform duties when they aren’t driving, such as loading or unloading, attending company meetings, completing safety checks, and so on. None of these things involve racking up miles, so they’re unpaid work. All these things add up, and if a trucking company has a culture of taking advantage of its employees, it’s no wonder that it can’t keep up with the demand for drivers.

4. Workforce demographics

If you look at the most common age bracket of truckers between 55 and 64, over 83% of them are Caucasian. Underrepresented ethnic groups simply aren’t that well represented in the industry, which makes other underrepresented groups less likely to consider it as an option. The same goes for the ratio of men vs. women; only about 6% of truckers are female, meaning there’s a massive untapped workforce that simply isn’t interested in joining a mostly male industry.

The takeaway

Using video games to recruit potential new truckers may not single-handedly solve the trucker shortage.  However, it’s a sign that trucking companies are thinking outside the box to come up with solutions. A single video game probably won’t make a big difference. However, future innovations may well put a dent in America’s need for more truck drivers.