Cars and trucks travel on the Maine Turnpike near exit 48 in Portland. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

A Maine industry group is targeting Gen Z and other young workers with a video storytelling campaign aimed at filling shortages of truck drivers and technicians.

The Maine Motor Transport Association plans to launch the “Go. Your Way,” campaign on Tuesday using TikTok, YouTube and Instagram to educate and attract workers born in 1997 or after. Association CEO Brian Parke said the industry needs to fill thousands of jobs over the next 10 years as current workers age out of the workforce.

The group is pitching the truck industry’s steady work and good wages as a way for college students to pay off school debt and high school students to have a career without going to college.

The trucking industry is a major economic driver in the state, accounting for one of every 16 jobs, or more than 32,000 positions, in 2018, according to the American Trucking Association. Maine has more than 5,300 trucking companies with wages topping $1.6 billion, and drivers can make from $49,000 to $58,000 annually, the association said.

Nationally, more than 61,000 driver jobs are now open. The website lists dozens of industry jobs in Maine, with companies offering thousands of dollars in signing bonuses and salaries up to $80,000 per year for drivers. Other jobs include office support, technicians and freight handlers.

The worker shortage has been ongoing for several years, which Parke said is largely because potential workers do not know much about the trucking industry and do not consider it. However, the pandemic highlighted the industry’s essential role in moving supplies, he said.

Brian Parke, president and CEO of the Maine Motor Transport Association, says his group has launched a campaign targeting Generation Z to sign up to be a truck driver or technician. Shown here in Augusta in this Thursday, May 13, 2021, photo, Parke says the campaign is using video storytelling platforms including YouTube and TikTok. Credit: Michael Shepherd / BDN

“One of the positives is there’s a much greater sense of appreciation for what our industry does,” Parke said. “Our members were out there on the road, implementing safety precautions and making sure the store shelves were stocked, food was delivered and medicine got to where it needed to be.”

Commercial trucks move about 68 percent of goods in the U.S., according to Redwood Logistics. In Maine, more than 84 percent of communities depend exclusively on trucks to move their goods, according to the American Trucking Association.

Parke said drivers need to get a commercial driver’s license. At age 18, they can drive anywhere in Maine and at age 21, they can drive interstate.

The image of long-haul, or over-the-road, drivers staying away from their family for days or weeks doesn’t completely portray the trucking industry, Parke said. Some people prefer the long-haul routes and some companies allow dogs or other companions to travel along. A newer trend is team-driving, where two drivers switch off driving and resting, he said. Short routes that can be completed in a day also have become popular.

“A career in trucking is a great long-term option for individuals … who don’t necessarily want to follow the typical path of college loan debt followed by 40 years in an office cubicle,” Parke said.

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