Trucking is at a watershed moment, needs big-picture thinking

Never have I been able to keep one, so no resolutions for the new year in this quarter. It’s just an exercise in frustration. And I’ll bet that most of you feel the same way.

Besides, the last couple of years have been utterly unpredictable and 2022 promises to be much the same, so what’s the point of resolving to do something?

Just be your best self. Be the person your dog thinks you are.

(Illustration: istock)

So, no resolutions but I do have wishes — for myself and my family, for you and yours, and for this industry that supports us. Imperfectly, yup, but it does keep us going. We owe it to ourselves to improve it, to make it work for every last one of us. Impossible dream, but every step forward counts.

My first wish is for driver training and licensing that truly weed out the ones who don’t merit the right to pull 80,000 lb., let alone 140,000, down the highway beside your kids and mine. Then I want enforcement that shoves the bad ones right off the road.

Speaking of enforcement, I want the various authorities to grow some teeth, root out the unscrupulous carriers, and push them into the weeds as well. Lives will continue to be ruined if they don’t. A pipe dream, it seems, but this is a wish list after all.

For drivers – and carriers, too — I want a compensation system that makes sense. I think it has to be a hybrid of some sort based on hourly pay, longhaul included. Pay by the mile only works if, when the wheels aren’t turning for whatever reason, there is real money in place. Lots of carriers offer it, many not very generously, but lots don’t. When it’s their fault, shippers/receivers must be on the hook.

Obviously, productivity has to be maintained, but fairly on both sides of the chequebook. I’m sure that’s doable. I should think a reward system of some sort could be easily matched against hourly pay. That assumes reasonable expectations on the part of shippers – and the salespeople who quote the load. Fat chance?

Over-zealous dispatchers have to be de-zealoused (new word for ya) if any of this is to work in the minefield that is the ELD/Hours of Service regime.

And, very much related to that last point, I would pray to all the gods that the parking nightmare ends. I want governments at all levels, municipal especially, to take it seriously and do something.

Fixing this one will require a truly collective effort, and right at the centre of it should be carriers screaming loudly on behalf of their drivers — and of their own bottom lines. Making just as much noise should be the shipping community. And if there was ever an issue that begged for the rise of a true leader in driver country, here it is.

The real point here is that “collective effort” idea. I think we’re at a watershed moment when all things trucking are in a state of flux, living with a repressive regulatory scene that fights profit at every turn while doing little to advance road safety and utterly nothing to enhance productivity. Greed and opportunism seem to pervade every transaction from the consumer all the way back to the manufacturer, and we’re caught in the middle. We sway this way and that in those commercial winds.

I really do think we’re at an important moment and I really do think that we need some big-picture thinking. None of us do that. Nobody sees our role within the total supply chain while also understanding what’s going on – what’s wrong — in the trenches. It’s not just drivers who need a leader.

So that’s my big wish. I want someone with vision to move us forward as a unified industry.

Rolf Lockwood is editor emeritus of Today's Trucking and a regular contributor to Trucknews.com.

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  • When yer right, yer right Rolf. Our government treats drivers like 2nd class citizens. Not operating under the Ministry of Labour, but the HTA.
    Instead of higher standards, it’s a race to the bottom.
    Who didn’t see a supply chain issue on the horizon? Don’t expect much improvement.

  • May all your wishes come true.
    All of them have been wished for since at least deregulation in the mid 80’s.
    I’ve been trucking since ‘78
    Im not going to hold my breath tho.

  • Hello Rolf
    I have had the pleasure of meeting you ,( many years ago) and follow your editorials. Your current diatribe on who is a leader in the quest for some regulation in all aspects of this industry, peaked my interest. Not , I have been in the industry for over 35 years and have witnessed the demise and degeneration of this once proud and honorable industry. It would seem to me, in lieu of inciting the backlash of all the keyboard warriors out there a way with your voice to , suggest an action to call together ALL O/O’s and independents a “rising” of the necessities of the industry. To many platforms allow one persons agenda to be put to the test and only one voice among many .
    How can we put forth a “date” that as was once said, “A day that will live in infamy” to put the industry on it’s ear and bring the desired reaction to our deaf politicians!?

    Just inquiring as I have the the ear of many truckers and companies that have asked the same questions over and over.
    Look forward to y our response

  • “living with a repressive regulatory scene that fights profit at every turn while doing little to advance road safety and utterly nothing to enhance productivity.”
    That says it all. But what can you expect, after all it is government and we all know how incompetent they are.

  • Good day Rolf. Good comments. I hope for the same. The problem of new drivers on Northern Ontario two lane roads. The driving styles in other countries is so different then here in North America. Search “bus drivers India” as an example. That type of driving is now here. Put ice and snow and paid by the mile in the mix and you get the carnage on the roads we have now. I work part time on hiway 11, north of Northbay. At least twice a week I get passed with oncoming traffic.  (DG 95kph company policy)They just pull out and go and expect me and the other driver to make room. Maybe we need to have new drivers have there full G for 5 years before they can upgrade to a AZ?
    Please keep using our influence and help the ministry solve this problem!
    Thanks for listening
    Kelly Carter

  • Hi Rolf,
    Your ‘pipe dream’ is unattainable as long as:
    1. unqualified politicians oversee various Provincial Ministries.
    2. unscrupulous truck driving school owners cut corners.
    3. unqualified instructors ‘teach’ at those schools.
    4. unproven curriculum is delivered at those schools.
    5. unscrupulous trucking company owners send ineffectively trained drivers to the wolves.
    6. unsympathetic trucking company owners pay by the km or mile.
    7. underpaid steering wheel holders are mistreated by everybody—EVERYBODY!
    8. unqualified drivers are let loose like cattle in a stampede.
    9. uninformed electorate votes for unqualified politicians.
    10. unenforceable laws take precedence over intelligent enforcement.

    Rolf, stick to the ‘be the person your dog thinks you are’ and your life will be less frustrating….