104: Recruiting the Next Generation of Drivers

In this special episode of the Oakley Podcast, we’re streaming from the Mid-America Trucking Show where host Jeremy Kellett is joined by Lindsey Trent to discuss how her company is connecting high school students to the world of trucking, changing their lives, and impacting the community. 

Key topics in today’s conversation include:

  • About Next Generation in Trucking (4:00)
  • Lindsey’s involvement with the new apprenticeship (6:10)
  • NGT’s impact on young people (7:07)
  • Graduating from high school with a CDL (9:28)
  • How NGT is making a splash (10:27)
  • Creating alternative career paths (12:45)
  • How to get in touch with Next Generation (13:56)
  • NGT’s mission (14:39)

Oakley Trucking is a family-owned and operated trucking company headquartered in North Little Rock, Arkansas. For more information, check out our show website: podcast.bruceoakley.com.


Lindsey Trent  0:12  

The biggest issue that we’ve always faced in our industry is an aging workforce, the lack of young people getting into our industry, the lack of programs and knowledge that young people have about the trucking industry, and—if they do know something—it might not be what’s actually what a truck driver does day in and day out. And so, what we decided we wanted to do is to really create an industry-wide solution for an industry-wide problem.

Jeremy Kellett  0:40  

Welcome to the Oakley podcast, trucking, business, and family. This show is brought to you by Oakley Trucking, headquartered in North Little Rock, Arkansas. The purpose of this podcast is to communicate with Oakley owner-operators and their families by giving them up-to-date information concerning Oakley Trucking and the trucking industry. From business advice to safety updates to success stories. Also to give an inside to outside truck drivers that might be interested in joining the Oakley family.

This Jeremy Kellett, Director of Recruiting at Oakley Trucking and I’m your host for this podcast. This is episode 104. So on today’s episode, I sit down with Lindsey Trent of Next Gen in Trucking and we’re at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky. And Lindsey talks about how her organization introduces young people to the transportation industry. It’s a very interesting episode and I thank you enjoy it. Thanks for listening to the Oakley podcast and let’s get straight into the show after we hear from our sponsor Arrow Truck Sales.

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Okay, we’re here at Mid-America Trucking Show and we’re talking to miss Lindsey Trent with Next Generation Trucking. Lindsey, how’re you doing today?

Lindsey Trent  2:44  

I’m doing great. Love to be here at MATS.

Jeremy Kellett  2:46  

Oh, isn’t it great out here? You were telling me—and we’ll get into what you do here in a minute—but I was just excited to hear about you brought 200 high schoolers here yesterday.

Lindsey Trent  2:56  

There was about 240 diesel tech and interested CDL students here they were in high school. We thought if they were going to get excited about trucking which we want them to be excited about trucking. They would get excited at the Mid-America Trucking Show. They loved it. Yeah, you got all kinds of cool stuff. They got hats. They went to some booths to meet people and to see these trucks and climb inside of them drive simulators. They had a great day. And of course, they should have been at school but they were at the Mid-America Trucking Show. It was a field trip.

Jeremy Kellett  3:29  

That’s right. That qualifies as a field trip. Well, that’s good. Let you bring that many high schoolers out here to learn about trucking because we don’t do enough of that. Now, give our listeners an idea about what Next Generation in Trucking is because when I heard about this, our friend Laura was telling me about you need to talk to Lindsay with next generation. Well, I thought and I looked you all up and I thought this is fantastic idea to be able to connect, you know like the connection to trucking. So give us a little background and what you got going on?

Lindsey Trent  3:59  

Sure. So I’ve been in trucking about 10 years, I started off doing driver staffing. And then I worked for Ryder for the last four years. I’m officially full-time with Next Gen. But during that time, the biggest issue that we’ve always faced in our industry, an aging workforce, the lack of young people getting into our industry, the lack of programs and knowledge that young people have about the trucking industry and if they do know something, it might not be what’s actually what a truck driver does day in and day out. And so what we decided we wanted to do is to really create an industry-wide solution for an industry-wide problem. My co-founder, his name’s Dave, died five years ago. He started a high school program at Patterson High School. So very involved well rounded truck driving program and what we’re trying to do is replicate his program and just really do anything we can do to raise awareness about trucking careers for young people.

Jeremy Kellett  4:56  

That’s awesome. You know, that’s been needed a long time to be able to do make that connection from coming out of high school to what even Trucking is about, you know, I mean it, even how trucks operate and going down the highway is a whole nother deal, you know, of learning that. So you guys go to high schools and actually try to get them to participate in your program?

Lindsey Trent  5:20  

Yeah, so we’re connected to diesel Tech High Schools all across the country. So high schools that have diesel tech programs, there are some high schools that have supply chain programs, we’re trying to get more of those as well. So we’ve met probably with over 50 schools to start CDL programs all the way from Maine to Hawaii to Alaska. And so what we’re trying to do is to really create a well-rounded CDL program, where young people can learn about becoming a truck driver.

Jeremy Kellett  5:51  

And have you been involved in the new apprenticeship that they’re talking about now making that from high school to CDL at an 18-year-olds drive, which freaks out a lot of truck drivers. It doesn’t me, I mean, to be honest with you, I’ve got a 21-year-old now. And I mean, 18 I believe he could drive a truck.

Lindsey Trent  6:10  

Yeah, we’re not looking for any 18 year old, it’s a special person that will be able to drive a truck and who we want to train. But the program that we’re trying to get out there, it’s a one year program in high school, where they go to class every single day, it’s classroom instruction is very well thought out, they have two simulators on-site, they have a truck and a trailer to do pre and post-trip inspections, coupley, they just incorporated a golf cart with a utility trailer this year, so they can practice their backing. So it’s a very well-thought-out program. We’re also trying to create a two-year pathway. So it’s going to be even more intensive and getting these young people old, properly trained to be truck drivers, when they graduate high school, then they re enroll and go to a local driving school to get their behind-the-wheel training.

Jeremy Kellett  6:54  

Do you see a lot of high schoolers that didn’t really know about trucking but are so glad that they heard about it? A lot of them don’t hear about it.

Lindsey Trent  7:06  

That’s right. It’s really about changing people’s lives, and we’ve seen this a lot of times with trucking programs that we can offer. One of Dave’s first graduates, his dad, a couple months into the program, came in to shake his hand. And Dave said, ‘Okay, well, why?’ And he said, ‘Well, before my son started taking your class, he was in the wrong crowd. He wasn’t successful in traditional education, so he had a low self-esteem.’ He changed his life literally because he got connected to a truck driving program. He finally found something he was good at, and he could be passionate about. Today, that driver, who graduated five years ago, bought his first truck and now he’s an owner-operator and he wants to own more trucks. He went from graduating high school, being a company driver, and now owns his own truck, so getting these young kids on a pathway that can change their lives is what we’re all about.

Jeremy Kellett  8:14  

It’s great see passion that you have to do that because we need more people like you to do that. Because there’s such a need for that gap that we everybody’s talked about, for years, from going to high school to become an a truck driver. And then, you know, to hear that you, you know, you’ve changed one guy’s one kid’s life makes it all worthwhile. And I can only imagine the seeds that you planted yesterday with 240 kids running around the truck show for the first time. Don’t you know that they’re still excited today.

Lindsey Trent  8:47  

That’s right, and we see that generation Z, this generation that’s coming up, they’re questioning, questioning that pathway, whether or not they need to go to college or not. The average student today graduates with $30-50,000 in student loan debt. Gen Z is entrepreneurial, so we need to connect them to careers where they can get the training in high school and start a career in trucking right out of high school, but we want to train that well-trained driver, and we want them to have other pathways besides going to college and we think that trucking can provide that pathway.

Jeremy Kellett  9:23  

Yeah, stupid question, but I’m thinking. Will they have their CDL? Like, if they come out of high school and they go through one of your programs, will they come out of there with a CDL?

Lindsey Trent  9:35  

Depending on their age, and they graduate high school and get their CLT and then when they are 18. Then they go on to do the behind-the-wheel training with either a local community college or private driving school or even a school that has a our company that has a training program. So it’s a pathway for their VlP and then their CDL once they graduate Wait, because that’s usually when they’re 18.

Jeremy Kellett  10:02  

Yeah, so you’re the first initial step to get it going.

Lindsey Trent  10:06  

Yep, that’s right.

Jeremy Kellett  10:07  

Fantastic. Any results you’re seeing other besides, I mean, I know the one guy that’s already an owner-operator. That’s fantastic. I was on your website the other day and saw, might have been the same young man that had his own truck that was being successful already. You got any other examples like that that you can think of?

Lindsey Trent  10:26  

We’re seeing young women. We have a partner called job behaviors. And it really is an assessment on if the person is going to make a good delivery driver or a CDL over the road driver. It’s a 10 minute assessment day, it gives it to all the juniors and through that assessment, it, it identifies if you were going to make a safe driver that’s going to be retained in the industry, behaviorally who you are intrinsically. And so a lot of girls score high on that assessment. And so he personally invites him to his class and he has increased the girls to fold well that are entering his class.

Jeremy Kellett  11:06  

That’s great. That’s great because they need to be included, because they probably are shocked going oh, yeah, this is maybe something I want to do.

Lindsey Trent  11:13  

Absolutely. One of the other things that we’re doing is starting diesel tech programs. And so I’m on the advisory board of the local high school here in Louisville, Kentucky, they started their diesel tech program three years ago, and I was meeting with the teacher and he said, You know, I tell my students in the next couple of years, if you’re not making $60,000, you’re doing something wrong. And then in the same breath, he said, most of these kids, their parents don’t even make $60,000 combined. So the trajectory and life we can get them on by introducing a trucking program, it The sky’s the limit, also, the sky’s the limit. With careers and Truckee, you can start off being a driver or diesel technician and make a good living and do that your entire career. Or if you want to become a safety manager or an HR director, or literally, there are so many opportunities in our industry, we want to get them connected to our industry.

Jeremy Kellett  12:07  

And that’s a very good point because I was telling somebody yesterday, somebody that’s in the trucking business, somebody knows somebody that’s in the trucking business, somehow, trucking is affecting their lives, they’re either a truck driver, they work for a trucking company, they’re logistic, someway, somehow, and there’s so much opportunity for that, and people out there, it seems like the last 10 years, I’ve started seeing colleges come up with a logistics count trying to actually get degrees now. And that kind of stuff we’re used to when I went back Scout college, there wasn’t anything like that in there. And another thing, Lindsay, I know we a lot of times, we concentrate on the CDL driver class A but there are so many more opportunities of driving CDL when they don’t have to be Class A. It’s straight trucks, it’s local, it’s a real, it’s all the stuff that to drive and opportunities include besides over the road stuff.

Lindsey Trent  13:06  

Right, it’s about creating that pathway. And one of the things that we encourage industry partners is, is when we do start a program, maybe you can’t hire a driver until they’re 21. Or they’re 23. But creating that pathway for them and getting them involved in who you are as a company. Maybe you start off than being a street truck driver or delivery van driver, or maybe they’re working in your warehouse, but getting them entrenched in your company or culture. And then when they turn 21 Then maybe they can start driving for you. So it’s about creating these pathways and getting these young people good jobs in our industry.

Jeremy Kellett  13:44  

I like think that’s great, what y’all are doing at Next Generation. If a school is listening or maybe a truck driver and they want to get their kid involved that’s in school, what’s the best way to get in touch with you guys?

Lindsey Trent  13:56  

You can look us up online. Our website is NextGenTrucking.org. We work with people to start programs all over the country if there’s a good school system that you think would be good. We also have people who join our association. And that’s actually how we’re funded. So we have truck drivers at our association. We have these little tags, we have carriers and allied members and dealers. So we want the entire industry to get behind us in what we’re doing and training up the next generation of our industry professionals.

Jeremy Kellett  14:30  

So that’s how y’all operate, you’re funded by whoever wants to donate.

Lindsey Trent  14:34  

That’s right.

Jeremy Kellett  14:35  

So you got to— Oh, wow.

Lindsey Trent  14:37  

Yeah, we’re on a mission. It’s all about the mission to us. And I tell people, this is kind of a three-fold benefit. It’s going to help our industry to get a skilled diverse workforce, which is what we’re working towards. It’s going to help our economy because we are truckers are essential workers. Yes, but the biggest thing that we’re doing is changing students’ lives. And so we are on a mission to introduce young people to this great career where they don’t have to go to college and get $30-50,000 in student loan debt, they can come into our industry and get a great career and be on a pathway where they could support their family.

Jeremy Kellett  15:21  

That’s perfect. I love your passion for it. I really do. That’s great. All right, well, thanks for coming out and telling us about Next Gen. I really appreciate it.

Lindsey Trent  15:29  

Yeah, it was great to be on the show.

Jeremy Kellett  15:31  

You bet. NextGenTrucking.org.

Lindsey Trent  15:33  


Jeremy Kellett  15:34  


Lindsey Trent  15:38  

We’re also on social media @nextgentruckers, so find us on all the social media pages @nextgentruckers.

Jeremy Kellett  15:46  

Okay. Thanks, Lindsay for hanging out.

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Oakley podcast: trucking, business, and family. If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to rate or review the show on the podcast platform of your choice and share it with a friend. We love hearing from our audience, so if you’ve got a question, comment, or just want to say hello, head over to our website, theoakleypodcast.com, and click the “leave a comment” button. We’ll get you a response soon and may even share some of the best ones here on the show. We’ll be back with a fresh episode very soon. Thanks for listening.