The Open Road

“I think I might have heard the highway call”

— James Taylor, “Carolina in My Mind”

We have a newly minted driver in our house. Because he’s our oldest, our son’s journey to get behind the wheel has been a source of great excitement, joy and a little (maybe more than a little) trepidation for us all.

I’m happy to report he’s a really good driver. I knew he would be. Ever since he was a little guy, he’s been obsessed with cars. At his fifth-grade open house, he told his teacher-to-be that his favorite car was a Camaro. She won his heart by telling him her dream car would be a silver Camaro with black stripes. 

His taste in cars has gotten more elaborate as he’s grown older. He can tell you the make, model and most likely the year of any car you see on the road. He knows how much horsepower each possesses and how many models of various hypercars were made at any given time. For fun, he used to request to visit the luxury foreign car dealerships so he could ogle Aston Martins, Bugattis, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and McLarens. Even now, he and a friend make plans to visit various car shows in the area.

These days he’s combing websites looking for his future car. He’s got a savings account and is working steadily toward the goal of buying the perfect car after he gets his full license.   

As I read our cover story about transportation and the ever-increasing need for drivers, I looked up and asked him if he would ever consider driving a truck for a living. After all, driving is one of his great joys. His answer was a quick no. I expected it to be no (he has other career aspirations), but his reason was interesting. He thought truck drivers would have a poor quality of life. To make deliveries on time, drivers would have no time to exercise or stop for healthy meals (hello, fast-food drive-thrus). While he is just one member of Gen Z, it makes me wonder how the job is perceived by others in his demographic.

Gary James’ story, “Big Wheels Keep on Turning” (page 18), takes a look at the increased transportation costs expected over the next several years. Driver recruitment is one large factor. Some fleets are responding by increasing pay and offering better benefit packages. A few mattress manufacturers operate their own fleets and can offer their drivers the opportunity to be at home most nights or a Monday through Friday job.

Those changes seem like a good step toward making the job more appealing to those who were born for the open road. The companies that do these things note they have low turnover.

As the need for drivers increases, it certainly helps to take a look at quality of life. After all, mattress manufacturers are in the business of supplying a product that improves that very thing.

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