We all recognize that the trucking industry has an image problem. We all say that someone needs to do something about it.
This month I would like to recognize a group of truck drivers who, in addition to their everyday jobs, also spend a chunk of their own time delivering a positive message about the trucking industry to community groups, driver trainees and others around the province of Ontario.
These are the men and women of the OTA Road Knights team, and the entire industry owes them a debt of gratitude. Their carriers also deserve thanks for allowing the drivers – and we all know good drivers are at a premium – to participate. The Road Knights’ message is one of sharing the road and encouraging all road users to be partners in safety. They also talk about careers in trucking and the importance of the industry to Canada’s economy – something that is still a startling revelation to so many people.
The OTA Road Knights program has hit the 10 year mark – an impressive milestone for a program that relies solely on the enthusiasm of truck drivers and willingness of the fleets they drive for. Since the program got started about 70 individuals have served on the team each for two years at a time.
While being a Road Knight can be an imposition in terms of time, the vast majority of Road Knights seem genuinely sad when their terms come to an end. Many would like us to extend their terms.
It is clear that these industry ambassadors love their jobs and are proud to be in the trucking industry. Their enthusiasm spills over when they talk to people about the industry. I admit that their enthusiasm also rubs off on me. To see the reaction of children to the Road Knights when they bring their trucks to neighbourhood schools is something special. The kids love the chance to sit behind the wheel of a big truck – the teachers seem to love it just as much. Sometimes it even leads to a discussion about “second career” opportunities.
Another important role the Road Knights play is talking to the media. Who better to comment on what’s going on out on the highways than a professional truck driver? They bring instant credibility. In recent months Road Knights partnered with the Ontario Provincial Police to deliver a sharing the road with a truck message via the media. This activity landed the Road Knights with time on almost every major TV and radio station in Ontario.
It is not an easy job to volunteer to stand up and address a crowd of people, even a friendly one.
Retaining your composure in front of audience members who may have an inaccurate or negative view of the industry can be very challenging, but the Knights do such an incredible job.
Often we hear after the fact from people or groups who have changed their minds about trucking because of what a Road Knight has said and how he or she carried themselves.
You may think that all Road Knights are gifted with natural public speaking abilities. Not true. Some are lucky enough to be naturally gifted orators. Others work very hard to master the skill – and work even harder to overcome the fear of public speaking. OTA provides media and public speaking training for those selected to the Road Knights Team, but it is they themselves that are driven to succeed.
At the end of the day, the Road Knights are simply fine people – the ideal people to present the industry’s image. They don’t do it for the 15 minutes of fame or as a release for the frustrations of the job. They do it because they believe in the industry and they want others to know about it. The work they do benefits the industry as whole – not just OTA or the company they work for.
OTA has just launched its search for the next (2007-2008) Road Knights Team.
The program is open to both company drivers and owner/operators, but nominees must be based in Ontario and currently employed as a full-time truck driver by an OTA member company. If you’ve got what it takes, or you know someone who does, visit the Road Knights Team section at www.ontruck.org
– David Bradley is president of the Ontario Trucking Association and chief executive officer of the Canadian Trucking Alliance.