Let’s focus on what matters most

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It was a fun year, wasn’t it?

Who would have thought that in 2020 we would be using the roadside as a bathroom, and that a shower may be performed with a bottle of water and a cloth? Weren’t we supposed to be civilized by now?

Did you foresee fuel companies boasting about how much they appreciate your business before turning you away from their facilities? Or, did you foresee consumers realizing that big “stinky” loud trucks and their drivers are essential?

How about a pandemic so feared, that entire continents would be paralyzed before it even hit? Masking to “slow the spread” and neighbors calling the cops to report on those not masking or social distancing? Were these the same neighbors who were crying “defund the police?”

To all of you essential workers: I see you. You’re doing an amazing job in times that none of us predicted. It has been draining and extremely tough, so give yourselves some kudos.

It’s vital that we learn from the events of the past year. Learning will help us survive the times that are to come. We have a little idea of what is to come, but the conditions will be far worse than we have ever seen.

That’s right. In my opinion, 2021 will impact us more than 2020. In the midst of this pandemic, we still have trucking organizations trumpeting about trying to stop Driver Inc. and reminding us the driver shortage is still real. Here’s a reality check: Focus on what matters.

Health is a priority. Mental, physical, spiritual and soul is what matters most to us.

(Photo: iStock)

As a driver, what do you do when you get to a customer who displays a sign declaring: No washrooms for truckers? When a driver calls in to dispatch, what is done about it? I have seen and heard the narrative many times play out like this.

Customer to dispatch: “Sorry, it’s policy to keep us safe.”

Dispatch to driver: “Nothing can be done. It is what it is.”

How about this scenario. A driver slips and falls in a yard. The yard has either not been cleared, or is extremely icy with massive potholes.

Company to dispatch: “Your driver should have been more careful. We have a policy of cleats required.”

Dispatch to driver: “We told them to better maintain it, but it is what it is. Oh, and don’t file a claim with WCB for something you could have prevented.”

Weather is treacherous and the driver feels unsafe. I’m not picking on dispatch, because I know they are only repeating what they’re told.

When you add in all the pressure from Covid-related craziness, like not being able to sit down in a restaurant to eat a decent meal and socialize with others, we have a recipe for troubling times. We are building towards a perfect storm. So, here are some solutions.

Listen to your drivers. Act on what they’re telling you and back them up. If there is a situation that makes them feel unsafe, give them the freedom to make their own choice. This may involve trying to help talk them through, if it is a situation that can be resolved.

Stop dealing with customers who treat drivers worse than animals. Why does this have to be said? You know what the common denominator is with these customers? They usually pay the worst. Is a cheap load worth losing a good driver over?

There is no load that is needed more than a driver is worth. None. Don’t excuse any of this bad behavior. The morale among your drivers when you refuse to haul for bad shippers will rise and they will have your back as well.

This is not just a one-way street. If you’re a shipper or receiver, don’t put up with bad behavior from your carriers. The same rule applies. The cheap carriers will not care how your freight is looked after.

We can’t afford to accept the status quo. It’s time to stand up and stand out.

We will work together to help carriers through these times and the drivers to continue moving freight as they know best. I believe that we will make it a better year, against all odds.

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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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