STC Co-Director P. Sean Garney participated in a panel discussion on the future of truck safety at the American Trucking Associations Management Conference and Exhibition in October. He was joined by an America’s Road Team Captain, an industry researcher, and a motor carrier safety professional. The lively, informative discussion was cut short due to event time constraints. So, we wanted to share a few items that went unsaid.

The future of truck safety is still about the driver. Much of the panel’s time was spent talking about the role of technology in trucking and for good reason. With automated driving systems dominating the news and the accelerated adoption of dash cams and other advanced driver assistance systems, many are appropriately worried about integrating them into operations and how drivers will adapt. Will driver distraction increase? Will drivers be lulled into a false sense of security instead of focusing on the task? These are questions that demand an answer in the near term and STC welcomes this conversation.

Safety is about the long game. It’s about both attracting and retaining talent. By 2030, ATA estimates that trucking will need to hire nearly a million new drivers to replace those retiring, and we need to be laser-focused on who we want in the seat and how we get (and keep!) them there.

One key to this will be changing the way we play the game. The mythic aura of the Cannonball Run and the reputation of trucking as an unceasing, hard-charging industry that demands 60 hours a week is becoming an artifact of yesterday. We need to better message this trend and do more to accelerate it. As we’ve written before, tomorrow’s drivers are not lazy, but they do look for careers that provide positive feedback and growth opportunities. They grew up with parents who, in many cases, sacrificed family time for work obligations and are committed to rejecting that ethos. These are values we should desire in our drivers, and we should focus on delivering on them.

The larger supply chain trends are in our favor. As e-commerce grows and the average length of haul continues to shorten, companies are looking to realign their distribution networks and optimize their driver and equipment capacity. Innovative carriers are creating ways to ensure regular and predictable home time and showing drivers this is not just a job, but a path to a prosperous, rewarding career.

Safety is about culture. Culture is about people. Finding the right people, showing them the path to success, and giving them the tools they need to thrive will win the long game.