Are we there yet?

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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.
Safe Trucking

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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.

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  • Hi Ray, great post! I tried to send you my thoughts, but the site refused to accept my comments!! I have had this happen before a few times and am confused! It said that to prevent malicious use of the site, I would have to wait and try to send my comment later. I am somewhat computer illiterate, so maybe I am doing something wrong. Maybe someone does not share my opinions, so they are deleting my comments. I enjoy reading this blog and commenting when I have something to say, but for some reason, it often does not go through!

  • Ray, you have said it all! The problem that I have seen in my 27+ years is that the type of drivers who would and did stand together, have retired or quit because of all the BS that is crammed down our throats and have moved to greener pastures! The ‘new’ breed of truck driver(often through no fault of their own)have been molded to be this “low maintenance” driver that the industry, especially big carriers like to hire. By low maintenance driver, I am referring to the drivers who do what they are told, right or wrong, and DO NOT ask ‘why?’ or ‘how much?’ or ‘when?’. This is the type of driver that most companies want to hire, not someone with a couple million miles under their belt who will know enough to ask all of the right questions. A couple big companies that I worked for over the years had several policies like ‘no passengers-no exceptions!’ or “do not stop to assist ANY motorist-no exceptions!’ or ‘you MUST use the company fuel card and pay the added premium for using it- and DON’T ask why!’. The list goes on and on. All of this crap is the kind of things that good drivers and o/o’s tire of after time, and when they finally decide to do something about it, they are labeled as ‘high maintenance’ and are bulldozed back into submission or if they can’t be sqeezed back into what the company wants them to be, their relationship will terminate shortly. Now, the company will go out and hire a new driver (perhaps someone who didn’t grow up in this country and may not speak either of the original languages here), but they are glad to drive here on our paved roads in decent, modern trucks and they won’t know which questions to ask and also won’t realize when they are being given the ‘short end of the stick’, because back where they immigrated from, they likely had no ‘stick’ at all! These drivers, like you say, through no fault of their own, sometimes have several ‘problems’, partly due to their substandard training and lack of experience, and partly because of the language barrier or difference in what they believe to be right or wrong, based on being raised elsewhere and not knowing what is expected of them in this country. Also, the younger generation in our own country have lost their sense of pride and performance, partly due to our ridiculous school systems and stupid ideas like ‘leave no child behind’. How can we expect our young people to want to be performers when we treat the lazy or slow learners the same as the high caliber, ambitious ones? This is the same mentality as taking the worst driver you have, drag everyone down to that level and then treat them all the same! Eventually, the old-school drivers get sick of this and quit or just as bad, get sick of the system and isolate themselves from all others! Now, you have a few good guys who won’t talk to the ‘new breed’ of drivers, and you have a bunch of new guys who won’t try to talk to the ‘old hands’ because they are ‘high maintenance’, according to the office people, and everyone gets treated the same anyway! Don’t believe me? Just go to a truckstop and see if you can find some ‘new driver’ who will walk over to a table and ask if he can sit with that old driver in the bib-overalls and get some pointers on driving or anything for that matter! It won’t happen now days! When I was starting, there were lots of times when I did exactly that, and I was NEVER turned away! Oh-wait, all those old guys are gone now and the ‘new drivers’ eat at McDonald`s or Wendy`s or Tim`s or grab a hoagie and a Red-Bull and eat in their `slippery` company truck with it`s automatic transmission!

  • Ray/Stephen: -I couldn’t agree more with what you have said. What really amazes me is the lack of response to this article. Maybe we are the last “old school drivers” left???

  • I think it’s important to note that all the valid points Ray makes in his post are not unique to our industry. These changes are taking place across our whole society. The fact that most people now live in cities and work for large companies rather than live in smaller communities and work with their families and close neighbors goes to the heart of the matter.
    I don’t think we’ve lost the values that embody the driver as the “Knight of the Road”. We all share those qualities. Maybe we just have lost the ability to share them in a culture that has changed to quickly over the last couple of decades. The new social media is one way of adapting the new information technology to the expression & sharing of those values.