The trucking industry as a whole doesn’t display much empathy for its drivers. Drivers are about the passion for what they do day in and day out. Corporate trucking is about profit. The ground between these two poles is a no man’s land at present, when it should be seen as fertile ground on which to grow common interest.
It is a challenge that isn’t unique to the trucking sector. We are facing divisive issues between large corporate interests and their employees and independent contractors across our society. In fact, I would say that entrepreneurs, small and medium businesses, along with employees, share many of the same concerns when it comes to dealing with and competing with the global titans of the business world.
On one hand we (individuals and small companies) have no choice but to adopt new technologies. This, at first blush, may seem detrimental to our well-being both financially and logistically. On the other hand, we can find the silver lining and flourish in markets transnational companies are simply too large to be responsive to.
In fact, many large companies can be a lucrative source of partnerships for this reason alone.
If you’re a driver that holds a passion in your heart for driving; if you value your independence and freedom but still desire to work in an atmosphere that will provide you with a sense of security in return for your commitment and loyalty, then allow me to recap yet again a few things I’ve learned working for a family-owned trucking business.
First, let’s set the stage. You need to do your homework as a driver. In my experience, companies with a fleet that is operated by employees and not owner-operators are far more likely to be empathetic to your needs as a driver.
These companies may be easier to find in the private fleet sector, but are certainly not limited to it. I work for a common carrier. As a driver, you need to a recruit a carrier to work with, as much as they need to recruit you to work with them.
Honesty and integrity are at the heart of everything that transpires between the owners and drivers where I work. With the founding family’s same passion for trucking that I share, there is always fertile ground for both parties to grow and prosper.
As an employee, not a contractor (owner-operator), my employer has made a large commitment to me from day one. Our relationship is symbiotic, not parasitic.
My employer is in tune with my needs as an employee. Things such as family time, job security, steady income, and so on, are a priority to them. In turn, I am in tune with their needs. Meeting customer service, operating, and safety standards are important to me. I know I will be rewarded further for my ability to deliver above the expected standard. My employer is in touch with how I feel about what I do. This is incredibly important.
The result of this relationship is a team approach as we compete against those titans of global business I mentioned above. Working together we are able to respond far more nimbly to the needs of our customers. Just as my employer is empathetic to my needs, I, as a driver, am far more in tune with the needs of the company as they respond to a rapidly changing business environment.
The rollout of electronic logging devices (ELDs) is a great example of our relationship. It was a non-issue for either party. I was able to depend on them to plan years ahead for these changes and they were able to depend on me to adopt new technology and provide critical feedback well in advance, which enhanced their competitiveness.
In this industry, we spend far too much time working against one another, rather than with one another. Drivers and employers are partners, not competing interests.
Al Goodhall has been a professional longhaul driver since 1998. He shares his experiences via his blog at www.truckingacross canada.blogspot.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @Al_Goodhall.