Professional driving is about attitude

David Henry

I heard a comment recently that truckers are handling the pandemic very well, because we know we’re essential and the public now knows it as well. That would be a cool sentiment if it were real, but I’m not seeing it that way.

What I am seeing, and experiencing, is lower morale than I’ve seen in my 32 years on the road. Some of us thought the mood among truckers was bad, and then 2020 hit. And hit. And hit. And hit.

There was definitely some initial enjoyment related to lower traffic volumes, but as things started opening up, the traffic increased. A curious phenomenon then occurred. The traffic increase wasn’t as much related to work and rush hours, but rather to people just getting out and enjoying their vacation, paid for courtesy of the government.

Another crazy thing happened. Road rage went nuts. It’s like people who had been shut in for weeks couldn’t wait to vent. Did anyone see that coming? Who knew that forcing people to physically distance and to take steps to protect themselves from a deadly virus would turn them into speed demons who took excessive risks?

(Photo: iStock)

I’m now getting passed more often in no passing zones. I’ve witnessed crashes from people racing up a shoulder to bypass a traffic back-up, only to crash. We’ve seen multiple fatalities in Northwestern Ontario as semis tailgated each other and tried to pass unsafely. Cyclists and pedestrians have been hurt or killed.

It seems any goodwill we had on the highways left as soon as people left their homes.

So, fellow truckers, what do we do about this? Are you going to let a road rage incident overtake you and put you in harm’s way? What are you going to do on the road?

I’m by no means perfect, but I make a conscious decision every morning to try to bring a semblance of peace to my travels. I check my ego before I turn my key.

I watch and scan all around me as I roll. I’ll be quicker to let someone in. I’ll back off sooner and give myself more escape room just in case I need it.

There’s an expression we have often used: No load is worth a life. Take your time. Your life and others depend on that. I don’t mean you should be a rolling roadblock. I mean, pay attention to efficiency and safety. Another expression I like is to be like a duck. They may look calm on top of the water, but underneath their feet are going like crazy.

Maybe there are some bitter, dejected, beaten down drivers who will tell me that my approach is as effective as pissing in the wind. I’ve been told that for years – that there are just too many horrible drivers. I guess I’m hard of hearing. I know I can and do make a difference.

Instead of bitching about a driver who is discourteous at a truck stop, if the opportunity presents itself, I’ll ask the driver if they understand what they’re doing? We all have blind spots in our actions. We have times where we do something without thinking. I choose to give them the benefit of the doubt. It’s easier to bitch today, but tomorrow that driver will continue with their bad habits.

Most times, I get thanked for trying to help. That driver I approached and talked to may be more courteous in the future.

I won’t tell you it’s all roses. It’s very tough these days. I’ll stress again that I choose to check my ego. My attitude has to be good. If it isn’t, a very tough day could be the end of my trucking career. One bad move can destroy lives and careers.

One courteous move can save lives. A good word can even change a life. A simple, heartfelt thanks can boost a person to achieve better things. Life is made of millions of small events. I’m going to make each moment count.

It’s easier to change an attitude than to deal with the consequences of a bad attitude.

 

David Henry

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.

Have your say

We won't publish or share your data

*

  • Just take it easy. Too many 4 wheelers trying to kill us as it is but I am not responsible for their bad driving habits and neither are the other trucks on the road.
    Just too many people who think it is the Daytona 500 and a me first attitude.

  • Was peaceful for a spell. I find that it’s not only 4 wheelers having a me 1st attitude, have had some hairy experiences with jr truckers as well. I take more precautions than necessary but it seems I’m always in harms way. My company has castrated the equipment to a point where I can’t get out of harms way sometimes. I thank my experience, and knowledge of reading the traffic to help me mostly. I have over 30 years in this profession & can definitely say the danger factor has increased immensely. Drive to arrive i always say. Go safe out there, be safe.