The fall fanfare of annual general meetings, roundtables, panel discussions, and training seminars is about to kick off for all the movers and shakers. Most of the topics will focus on profitability as the goal.
There was a time when profit was the result of good management and not the reason for it. It wasn’t that long ago, but if you’re under the age of 45 you may not have a clear memory of it.
A 37.5-hour workweek, health and dental coverage, 20% of pre-tax profits shared with employees, mentorship, regular training, job postings promoting growth from within. This was the culture of retailing I was introduced to in the ’70s. Yes, I said retailing.
Those perks of the job were not the result of a negotiated contract between workers and management. It was the founders’ values that determined the quality of the workplace.
Those values extended beyond the workplace and into the social network of employees’ lives.
There was an annual children’s Christmas party, wide-ranging support for community events and fundraisers, company hockey and baseball teams, and generous financial support for an employee association headed by long-term employees that organized these events. Best of all, the company was profitable and grew steadily from year to year, adding jobs as it went. There was no lack of financial reward for the founders.
It’s definitely not rocket science. Any truck driver on the road today who brings a passion for driving to the job will tell you that their enjoyment is enhanced when they are treated well and compensated fairly. The sweet sauce is how you are treated by the people you depend on – supervisors and co-workers – from day to day.
The workplace has changed across all industries in the past 30 years. The sense of social responsibility employers held towards their employees was not limited to smaller family-owned businesses as it seems to be today. Large public companies invested heavily in their workforce.
There was a social contract between employers and employees that didn’t exist on paper. It filled employees with a sense of security for themselves and their families. That doesn’t exist anymore. That’s not a trucking issue, it’s a societal one.
I think when we talk about old school values within the trucking industry, this is what we are talking about. When I left the retail sector it was five to six years after the founding family sold the business. It ended up in the hands of a large multinational company and the “unprofitable” parts that did not fit into the master plan were dismantled or sold off.
Employees were “downsized.” Any sense of responsibility to the individual employee was not part of the corporate agenda. We see this scenario playing out regularly across the trucking industry these days.
Some of you may feel I’m simply filled with sour grapes, pining for a time that no longer exists and unable to adapt to a changing world. On the contrary, I’m simply questioning the path we have chosen to take, or perhaps, the path we are being led down. I encourage anyone reading this to do the same.
In my youth, I saw capitalism as a catalyst that enabled growth and financial security up and down the social ladder. Today, capitalism is an ideology. A contentious statement on my part? Sure. But what’s the good of holding an opinion if you don’t voice it. The values of the corporations we are dependent upon should be questioned.
The job of a truck driver is all about independence and initiative. I don’t want or need anyone to hold my hand or reward me for something that is not my due. I believe we all need to be accountable for our individual performance. At the same time we are all better off when we are valued for that performance. That’s why I’ve been 14 years with my employer.
Al Goodhall has been a professional longhaul driver since 1998. He shares his experiences via his blog at www.truckingacrosscanada.blogspot.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @Al_Goodhall.
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