How to Make Older Chauffeurs a Valuable Part of Your Team

Posted on May 1, 2001 by LCT Staff - Also by this author

They come from a time where a man’s work was his signature. Before there were Baby Boomers or Generations X and Y, there were simple, hard working men who formed the backbone of post-World War II America. Many of these men are still working. The American Association of Retired People (AARP) reports that there are more than 34.4 million Americans over the age of 65. At least 11 million of them are in the workforce. This number will continue to grow as people live longer and retirement expenses far exceed pensions and social security payments. In an interview in Modern Maturity Magazine, Tess Canja, AARP president, says learning to manage an older work force is one of the biggest challenges facing younger employers. “The old days where employers complained that senior workers were rigid, hard to manage and behind the times technologically are over. Our members are buying personal computers and embracing technology like never before.” For operators around the country plagued by a chronic, ongoing chauffeur shortage, these able-bodied men over 60 represent an important segment of their driving staffs. Recruiting older workers and creating a relationship that works well for both employer and senior employee is a challenge that can produce tangible rewards. “They are more responsible. They are consistently on time and they have a work ethic that is completely different from anyone I have ever worked with,” says Bill Damron, vice president of A-1 Limousine in Princeton, N.J. A-1 has the sixth largest fleet in the industry, according to a recent LCT survey. The company operates more than 250 vehicles and has a staff of more than 400 chauffeurs. About five percent are men over the age of 60. Facing a shortfall of almost a hundred drivers, A-1 is in a “crisis” situation. It is actively recruiting more chauffeurs over the age of 60. “We have retired school teachers, outside salespeople and even retired truck drivers,” Damron explains. “We find them mainly through referrals from current drivers and a strong word of mouth on the street. They bring a wealth of knowledge to our company. They are generally very good with people and their life experience is extremely valuable to everyone they interact with at A-1.” Damron’s experience is that senior chauffeurs are best suited to early morning work. “These are men that have worked hard all their lives and are generally early risers by habit. We have a golf course right next to our office. I find that we plug in our older guys for our first rush of the day. They then go and hit some golf balls and have the whole day to relax.” Damron is concerned that all of his company’s drivers, including the ones over 60, can meet the physical demands of the job. “We have a mandatory yearly physical and all of our drivers are required to have a Commercial Drivers License (CDL),” Damron says. “We want all of our driving staff to be able to handle up to 50 pounds of luggage. If an older employee needs to use a luggage cart, that’s fine with us. We want to accommodate them any way possible.” Mary Aceto, vice president of human resources at BostonCoach’s Everett, Mass., headquarters, has more than 10 years of experience in her field. She is equally as enthusiastic as Damron about her company’s senior driving staff. Aceto reports that BostonCoach currently employs 189 senior chauffeurs. This represents more than 16 percent of the company’s overall driving staff. “I think they do an outstanding job for our company, particularly in the customer service area,” she says. “I find that handling our clients is very easy for them. There is something about a person over 60 years old that gives them an intuitive skill to handle people.” Aceto believes that older workers reduce everyone’s stress level. “They do not get upset by traffic problems or late flights. They understand and fully accept the role of sedan driver. They have a way to deal with the world at large that is refreshing. I cannot even remember in my three years at BostonCoach the last time a customer complained about one of these men.” Boston Coach, like many limousine companies, attracted large numbers of young retirees in the early ’90s when corporations everywhere were downsizing. Top companies like Carey International, Dav El and Music Express found themselves overwhelmed by job applicants who were laid off stock brokers, accountants or money managers. But unlike many industries, the older worker seemed to fit well in the chauffeured ground transportation world. “I think there are a number of reasons for this,” says Aceto. “First of all, our drivers are in business attire and they meet a variety of interesting, professional people. This is very close to the career they retired from. Second, they may find it difficult to fit in a new office environment. But a chauffeur is out on the road in his own little world and this independence is very attractive to them.” BostonCoach actively recruits senior employees. Its Donation Associate Referral Program (DARP) rewards church or civic groups who recommend their own members to ... see the May issue of LCT for more on this topic!

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