Always in a hurry, and I don’t know why

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“I’m in a hurry to get things done. Oh, I rush and rush until life’s no fun. All I really gotta do is live and die.”

Those lyrics from I’m in a hurry (and don’t know why) by the band Alabama could be about trucking. 

We have done this very well. I’ve been in the business for 34-plus years and as a rookie I remember hearing stories from the veterans about how fast they could make it from point A to B. Sometimes there were even more points involved along the way.

Why did they do this back then? Society in general was more laid back, but trucking has always been in a hurry. It’s not a new thing because of just-in-time deliveries. It came long before receivers started using us as their warehouses. 

In Canada, I think a lot of it can be traced back to the wars between trucking and the railroads. As the economy was booming in the earlier and mid 20th century, the railroads weren’t so willing to change with the times. They wanted to keep hand-loading freight onto their cars and the trucking industry wanted to make it easier using pallets. The trucking industry also promised, and delivered, much better delivery times. I have said for decades that if the railroads ever got their act together there would be much less longhaul trucking. 

There would always be a need for some over-the-road trucking, but in my perfect world freight would move on steel rails from city to city. 

That’s just a little history and it is only one factor behind the rush mentality in trucking. 

We’ve always had the option to treat drivers fairly but in reality, it’s been pretty rare. 

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(Photo: iStock)

“I hear a voice that says I’m running behind. I better pick up my pace. It’s a race and there’s no room for second place.”

We’ve all had calls like this from our dispatchers. To be fair, they’re just relaying the message they’ve received from the shipper. 

How many loads have you done that are a matter of life or death? Yeah, me either. None. 

I’m sure there are many who are not happy with my disdain for their delivery timelines. It is a healthy disdain brought about by decades of being lied to about the importance of timing. I’m being careful with my wording here. And “lied to,” is exactly what I mean. Maybe not by the person relaying the message, but there is so much dishonesty built into our system. 

I had an epic trip long before e-logs, where I was hounded over the three days it took to deliver. By the customer service rep, not my dispatch. There would’ve been more than the 30 messages left for me, but I stopped responding to them.

This load was so important that I was berated for stopping at home for two hours. Fortunately, I didn’t read that message until I was a few hours past home. I did get the team load there 30 minutes before the delivery window, only to be told to park the trailer along with the others waiting to be unloaded. So much for an emergency. Someday I may relate the whole story, but my trailer got unloaded and I was given another load to get me away from the office. 

This still happens today at so many companies. E-logs have helped protect drivers from some of the abuse, but they are not foolproof. 

This is especially true during bad weather and when drivers aren’t feeling well. Drivers may have enough hours left on their cycle, but not the ability to get the load delivered safely. What is your response then? 

It has been many years since I’ve allowed myself to be bullied into “picking up the pace.”

I have run many hot loads since then but it only happens when I’m asked, not told, and when it can be done safely. A good plan beats panic mode every time. 

I also check with receivers to see if the load is actually hot. They may have no idea that you’re being pushed by dispatch.

It really all comes down to communicating properly and honestly. Contrary to the song, if a driver knows why the load needs to be expedited, you’ll get far more out of them. 

If you’re transporting a heart, it’s an emergency. Otherwise, use your heart when dealing with your drivers. 

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David Henry is a longhaul driver, Bell Let's Talk representative and creator/cohost of the Crazy Canuck Truckin podcast. His passion is mental health and presenting a better image for trucking to the public.

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  • these are great comments and so very true. as someone who drove 19 years and has been in it since 1965 or just about 58 years overall I am able to verify exactly what you state here.
    I am happy and proud to tell you here at Carbon Express we treat our drivers as equals with our customers. if for example the customer wants a afternoon pick up on a Friday for a trip of say 800 miles we have trained our CSR folks to say to the customer we can load it on FRiday as requested but we cannot deliver it until Tuesday because our drivers get to take a full two days off at home with their families. if you need this load delivered on Monday then we will see if we have drivers with hours but if we do it will cost you a premium to do this.
    In short we tell our story we paint a picture that customers can see and the good customers do understand.
    this industry has to change and until it does we will all continue to struggle.