I was reading an article just recently that both intrigued me and gave me hope; it was written by Adam Ledlow and was based on the rise of Social Media in the trucking industry and how Facebook, Twitter and personal Web Sites are gaining in popularity at light speed in the industry.
I was particularly interested when Adam quoted Trucker Sean Sutherland and I read these words “Sites like Twitter are bringing back some of the brotherhood that has disappeared. I’m following trucker friends all over the country; meeting up with them, and building friendships and a brotherhood with them I may not have had any other way. These sites are starting to give truckers a feeling of togetherness, and I am finding that we are starting to find a voice again. We can use these tools on the Web to further the industry and ourselves.
This article gave me hope and made me think back to an article I wrote some time ago about my youth and growing up a trucker’s son, I started it with. At the age of 10 I began spending parts of my summers driving cross-country with my father in his truck. At 18 I took the next logical step and began driving on my own. For the next 10 years I drove a truck and learned what I now call “the code of the road.”
I quickly learned that truck driving was a craft like any other and I looked up to older drivers for advice. They taught me that drivers were a road family and when you are in the position to help a fellow driver you did it without question. Even driving through most of North America at a young age I was confident that if I needed a hand on the road I would get it from a fellow truck driver. Beyond respecting fellow drivers, I was also taught the importance of respecting and maintaining my equipment so that it would not let me down. The third principle that I learned on the road was the importance of a work ethic. Drivers respected their employers, appreciated their jobs, and went the extra mile if asked.
My experience was not so different from most drivers of my generation. Many of my peers were either second-generation truckers or grew up on a farm where it was becoming more and more difficult to earn a living. We were proud to be truck drivers and took our profession very seriously. In the years since I left the cab for the office, things changed swiftly and dramatically.
First the industry’s labor pool changed. A decline in farming and second-generation truckers was followed by an increase in ethnic and inner city drivers drawn by the higher than average wage level. Then due to the lack of minimum driver training standards, many of these candidates were trained by substandard schools and given just enough information and experience to pass their driving test and enter the industry.
These new drivers by no fault of their own were not equipped for the demands of life on the road and companies, unable or unwilling to respond to the industry changes left them to flounder on their own leading to record turnover. The industry must adjust to this new reality, but adjusting is not as hard as many think, it requires common sense and a sense of our own history.
Drivers themselves have potentially one of the biggest roles to play in this whole scenario they need to rediscover the code of the road as I call it. The sense of community that was the glue of this industry 25 years ago has suffered greatly but it is still there it just needs to be dusted off and updated to today’s reality. I feel that the sole of the trucker has been trampled on. Those values that used to define the task have, but for a few, missed the past few generations and somehow they need to be brought back to the forefront of the drivers and trucking company’s frontal lobes. A huge collapse or conspiracy to mislead did not happen in trucking but a severe neglect did and we need to ask ourselves what we can do to repair the damage”.
Even back when I was driving full time I thought that there needed to be a coming together of commercial truck drivers, an North American association of truck drivers that would ban together to look after its own. United drivers could defend themselves against ridiculous legislation like Alberta’s ban on CB’s and Ontario’s delayed ban on CB’s. It could express influence over FMCSA’s proposed rule making on entry level truck driver training, that is taking far too long to become reality and could be severely watered down from its original version, when it does come out. Where is the unity of voice from the folks who live behind a steering wheel to comment on the entire book of proposed rulemaking coming from FMCSA and Canadian Ministry of Transports?
The driver behind the wheel is not being heard on issues that affect their daily lives and livelihoods, this is wrong! Think about the clout of such a banding if it could be put together to include all of North America, somewhere between 3-4 million drivers, it would include for hire, private fleets owner operators, union and non union, believe me people/politicians notice this type of clout and they will listen and be influenced.
Using social media tools and other more traditional methods of communication, this group could mobilize support and assistance efforts to assist its own members when called upon by national emergencies or for the reviving of the Code of the Road. How about developing a seal of approval for trucking companies that demonstrates their support and respect for their drivers, identifying them as a good place to work as a starting point?
Things have changed a lot since I first took the wheel of a commercial truck, but the soul of trucking has not. Helping our drivers find their place in the rich history of this industry and take pride in their future is not just nice, but necessary. This industry was once a proud and intricate part of North America’s moral fibre it can be again, drop me a line if you think this idea has merit.
Mr. Ray Haight has enjoyed a successful career in transportation starting as a company driver and Owner Operator logging over one million accident free miles prior to starting his own company. After stepping down from a successful career managing one of Canada’s 50 largest trucking companies, Ray focused on industry involvement including terms as Chairman of each of the following, the Truckload Carriers Association, Professional Truck Drivers Institute, North American Training and Management Institute and the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities voluntary apprenticeship of Tractor Trailer Commercial Driver, along with many other business interests, he enjoys a successful consulting business, also sitting on various Boards of both industry associations a private motor carriers. He is also Co-Founder of StakUp O/A TCAinGauge an online bench marking service designed to assist trucking companies throughout North America focus on efficiency and profitability within their operations. All posts by Ray Haight