Trucking needs more mentorship

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“I keep applying and they always hire others who aren’t as qualified.”

Those disappointed words were from a person I know who wasn’t getting hired for their ‘dream’ job.’

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(Illustration: iStock)

It’s tough when it is a non-traditional job for and when no one in your family has ever done that job. You become the first generation in your family to do that occupation.

We see that more these days. I’m the first in my family to be in the trucking industry in any capacity. I don’t come from a long line of Teamsters, or stevedores, or trucking management.

So, I can empathize with the person I quoted above. It’s tough. No family or friends to offer advice on what to do.

Mentors needed

That said, I would have doubts about hiring this person. Even though the passion is there, the knowledge and understanding of the business isn’t. They need a mentor.

That’s exactly the uphill climb I faced when getting into trucking. What helped me was, getting told I can’t or shouldn’t do something increases the fueling pressure, driving me ahead.

I’ve done many different things in this industry. It is obvious I didn’t map out my career. I just saw different things that looked interesting, and worked hard to make it happen.

Want to start a trucking business from scratch? Done that twice. Want to do heavy haul? Been there.

Ice roads? Check, check and check.

Dispatch? Planning? Logistics? If there was an opportunity and I was told it was too much for me, I took that challenge.

Looking back, I can see that I would have benefitted from a counselor who would help me focus.

What’s a question interviewers ask? “Where do you want to be in 10 years? Twenty years?”

When I was in my late 20s I knew for certain that I did not want to be doing that job when I was in my 50s. I wanted to be running my own company and driving a desk.

I got there, but life happened and it was obvious that I needed to concentrate on my health. So, I applied the brakes and over some years I downshifted to a fairly easy company driver role.

I did this without a lot of thinking about the process. I’m great at mapping out my trips from point A to B, but in life I have taken steps as I see fit with the information I have at the time. Drives my wife nuts.

A few years ago, I was visiting with a major in the Canadian military. Our company was contracted to do military household moves and it was always interesting to talk to them. This major told me he spent a lot of time coaching his unit.

Where do you want to end up? What is your passion? “OK, here’s what you need to do to get there.”

Have you ever been asked this in trucking?  

Coaching lacking

We should be doing more of this. We are in an industry that changes and revolves on its axis so often that it can feel like we’re getting car sick. Driving a truck isn’t just about hooking on to a trailer and driving. Steer right, turn left, don’t hit anyone.

I encourage others to be the best at what they do. Maybe it’s van driving, tanker yanking, pulp pushers or getting into an office. I have had some great mentors. I didn’t always stay with their companies, but I have benefited from the wisdom they passed on to me.

That’s the important part. If we can leave an impression on others that helps them be a better person, then we’ve done something great.

You can lose a great employee but gain from the positive messages they spread about you. What price tag can you put on that?

I chatted with one such mentor recently and thanked him for what he passed on to me and others in this industry. He’s long retired and doesn’t see the effect he had on others. I reassured him that even if he doesn’t hear it from others, he has made his mark.

Work smart with eyes on the future and thank those in the past who helped you get here today. Help those around you. You may never know your impact.

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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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  • I am finding that new drivers often have been mislead by truck driving schools and trucking companies on the amount of money that new drivers can earn in the first year
    We need to have a proposal to have new truck drivers spend 1000 hours as the junior driver with the truck limited to 20 hours a day

  • This is a great article and thank you for posting it. As a woman who spent over 23 years in the trucking industry from customer service to leadership, I had some indirect (not hired as) industry mentors and a couple coaches that helped me get to where I am today. I believe in mentorship to allow others in the industry (or any industry) grow to their potentials and help them navigate not only the job itself, but also understanding the industry they are in.