Drivers make split-second decisions all day, every day. That’s a fact.
A driver is not able to, and definitely does not want to, send their decisions to committee or put off a decision until the next legislative session. But that is the way the world works when it comes to the bureaucracy that governs our industry.
To coin a phrase; it drives drivers crazy. This point was made clear to me when I was doing a little review of some of my past columns and came across Keeping an open mind about the potential of electronic on-board recorders, a piece I wrote for the April 2010 issue of Truck News.
The theme of this piece was the need for drivers to have flexibility in how they plan their day. That same theme repeated itself in my column last month. That’s six years folks, and we’re still waiting on a decision on electronic logging devices here in the great white north.
I’ve been searching for a way to convince my fellow drivers to participate in events that take place outside the wheelhouse of the truck in order to influence the decision makers. I’ve had little success convincing drivers to participate in industry safety meetings and events.
I know there is incredible value to be had to the individual driver and to the industry as a whole because drivers are the repository of safety knowledge through lived experience that is largely left untapped.
Drivers detest inaction, indecisiveness and bureaucracy. Combine that with the authoritarian nature of the leadership that has molded this industry over the years and it has left drivers feeling that participation is fruitless.
But we should never lose sight of the fact that as individual drivers, we do have influence. The late Stephen Covey wrote about the circles of influence we all have in our lives and how they overlap with others.
One of the influences we have as drivers is within the companies we work for or are affiliated with as owner/operators.
We neglect to take an active role in events and meetings put on by the very companies we depend upon for our livelihood. The owners and executives of those companies (no matter how big or small) have a much larger influence than the individual driver within the transportation hierarchy. We can tap in to that and make our voices heard simply by participating actively in something as simple as driver safety meetings.
I think that drivers should be using this channel to question decisions and policy.
It has been my experience that questioning authority rather than simply accepting decisions that affect your daily life is appreciated by your employer and business associates when it is done in an objectively critical way.
It’s not about who can scream the loudest to get their own way. It’s about bringing the wealth of your experience to the table.
As a group, drivers don’t do that. I’ve sat in many driver meetings over the years with people that have had plenty to gripe about at the truck stop but when it comes to piping up in front of the company executive in a group session, they remain silent. Why? This is the perfect setting for discussion and debate about the issues that really matter to drivers.
Drivers should realize that if you can impress your experience and ideas upon the managers and owners, then the driver’s circle of influence within the industry is expanded in turn.
But the responsibility for culture change doesn’t fall solely on the shoulders of drivers. Far from it. This was made clear to me in a recent discussion with a colleague about participating in industry events as a driver.
Networking and educational events are sponsored by a wide range of trucking industry players.
The top 100 Canadian trucking companies along with carrier organizations play a heavy role in sponsoring these events.
As a consequence, many of their own employees are participants as speakers, panelists, etc. This is fair in the sense that they are footing the bill, but it doesn’t speak to the diversity within our industry.
There are thousands upon thousands of individual drivers that don’t have a carrier to pay fees of up to $300 or more for an educational seminar and networking event, plus those drivers have to take unpaid time off to participate.
This needs to change. These events not only educate but they drive policy and influence trucking culture in a big way.
So let’s try and make our voices heard, drivers, however we can. You don’t have to attend a seminar you only have to speak up at your next drivers’ meeting and ask that your views be shared widely.
Then you can share your experience through social media so your fellow drivers can benefit.
You do have influence, please use it.
Al Goodhall has been a professional long-haul driver since 1998. He shares his experiences via his ‘Over the Road’ blog at http://truckingacrosscanada.blogspot.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @Al_Goodhall.