It’s tough to remain positive and upbeat all of the time. If I can maintain a positive outlook 80% the time, well, that’s a result I’m very happy with.
This past year of two has been a struggle for everyone, not just those of us in the transportation industry. The economy has hammered all of us. The best thing I have going for me though is the fact I work for a family-owned organization that puts its family values front and center. It’s nice to have that positive attitude trickling down from the top. Not all of us have that going for us.
Before I started trucking for a living, my wife and I were the owners of an office products retail franchise. It is a business I had been in for over 20 years.
When I first started in the business, the company was owned by a family and operated in a similar way to the company I work for now.
The family sold the business to corporate interests in the early 90s. Changes occurred rapidly and the similarities between how the retail environment changed in the 90s to how the trucking industry has changed over the past decade are haunting.
Take a look at any city in North America as you drive through it and from the retail landscape, it is difficult to tell them apart. Whether it is fast food, clothing, or building supplies, the same names on the buildings repeat themselves over and over again. Independents have been sucked up by the big boxes for the most part.
Now take a look at the trucks and trailers as you roll down the road. More and more independent operators are owner/operators or lease operators wrapped in the cloak of a large trucking operation, much like the franchise operator of a retail location. For all of the owner/operators out there, I can certainly empathize with the challenges you face as business owners as well as drivers.
So how does all of that relate to my attitude? For me it’s the difference between a constant focus on the bottom line as an objective and a motivator as opposed to simply doing the job to the best of your ability and having the pennies look after themselves.
That’s the beauty of driving for a family-owned company as opposed to a company focused on keeping the shareholders happy. When the prime intention of your day is to operate with honesty and integrity while meeting your customer service obligations and commitments, then coping with the trucking industry issues of the day becomes much easier.
We all have to deal with hours-of-service, speed limiters, dock delays, roadside inspections, log audits, home time, and so on. My experience has shown me that productivity, efficiency, and a positive outlook all thrive in an open and honest atmosphere that is supportive even when we drop the ball and screw up. When you work under conditions that use mainly punitive measures as a source of motivation and productivity, morale and your personal attitude usually end up in the toilet.
But even when you feel you are working for some of the best people in the business, it’s still difficult as a truck driver to have a bright and sunny outlook 100% of the time. After all, we are separated from friends and family for extended periods, we work long hours, daily routines are often in flux, we may have issues with the equipment we operate, we suffer road delays for a myriad of reasons, and all of that before we even get into loading and unloading. And we keep coming back for more. But for how long?
I keep reading about the trucking industry facing a driver shortage of qualified personnel. I look at driver recruitment ads that trumpet the benefits of working for this or that company but when I talk to many drivers I hear stories about those same companies that are anything but conducive to developing a positive work atmosphere.
It is said that we find happiness within ourselves. That happiness starts with a positive and upbeat outlook on life in general. But you need to surround yourself with others that are of a like mind and approach to life. In this business it starts by aligning yourself with a company that brings the same values to its business operations that you practice in your personal life.
Those shared values become the basis of a long and happy relationship despite the ups and downs of the industry in general or the economy. So look for the companies that walk the walk as well as talk the talk. The result is often a positive attitude and a happier outlook on life.