We recently spoke with London, Ont.'s Alan Goodhall, a 15-year road veteran doing weekly LTL runs to Winnipeg with US reloads for J&R Hall Transport. A Truck News columnist and a social media pioneer, Alan shares his thoughts with us on job satisifaction, attracting new drivers and improving the industry.
What’s key to making a long-term career out of driving?
To be concise: it's the money, the freedom, and a sense of adventure that keeps me coming back. But I think the key to making a long term career out of this work is first to recognize it as a lifestyle as well as a career. This needs to be understood by your family also. You're doomed to a life filled with unneeded stress if you can't get your head around the fact that you live the job 24 hours a day as an OTR driver.
How satisfied are you at this point in your career? What is causing you to be more or less satisfied than in the past?
The trucking lifestyle is a catch 22 for me. I love what I do but often feel I'm getting too much of a good thing and balance it with the amount of time I get to spend with my family. That can suck you into a downward emotional spiral. Time, the lack of it, and how we use it is the common thread running through all the major issues faced by drivers today.
In terms of wages I don't think there is much doubt that most of us are working longer for the same money we earned 10 years ago. The cost of living and inflation has eaten into our once well above average income and limits us to the amount of downtime we can take to recharge and re-energize ourselves.
Are there things that would make you consider leaving the industry?
As I age (I'm into my early fifties now) the amount of time I must spend on the job is the major factor that would cause me to either leave the industry or search for a non driving position within the industry. I see many of my peers struggling with issues of health and wellness as a result of years of lethargy fuelled by a lifestyle that embraces fast food and tobacco. I continue to try to be creative in finding ways to balance all of these factors in my life. It's not easy.
What’s your advice for attracting new drivers?
That's the million dollar question isn't it?
Well, if we want to attract professionals we need to treat folks like professionals. That starts with an apprenticeship program that addresses all aspects of a driver’s responsibility in detail.
Until an investment is made across the industry to develop mentors and professional trainers along with a system that allows individuals to obtain professional accreditation for the different skill sets, I don't think we will get a handle on the driver shortage in the long term. Short term I don't know what the answer is.
Major players in the industry seem to think that importing drivers is the short term solution but that may create more problems than it will resolve in the long term.
And your advice for improving the industry?
If we're going to improve the industry I think we have to first get out of the negative mindset we tend to fall into surrounding the major issues of the day. Exponential technological growth is a huge issue across our whole society and drivers need to recognize this for its potential benefits.
Think of hours of service. Going back to paper logs is not going to resolve anything in my opinion. We should be developing ways of embracing technology to resolve HOS issues and promote positive change that is of real benefit.
I guess what I'm saying is that we (drivers) need to stop looking backwards. That's no easy task when most of us are in that 50+ demographic and we're finding the rapid changes all around us very taxing.