It’s up to each of us to break down trucker stereotypes

by Mark Lee

I quite often get told that I don’t look like a truck driver. I used to think it was because of my youthful good looks, but even I have to accept that the years have taken their toll on me. So, I can only assume that it’s because I don’t fit the stereotype that truckers seem so keen to perpetuate.

My clean blue jeans, polo shirt and sneakers do make me stand out in a crowd of people that look like they live in the bush, yet it doesn’t take any effort on my part – all I have to do is pluck a fresh shirt from the wardrobe along with clean undergarments when I get up in the morning and take a shower every other day at the least. I don’t even have to shave every day, a five o’clock shadow doesn’t make you look scruffy, as long as the rest of the picture is tidy.

It would also appear that I don’t act like a truck driver either. I’ve often heard comments from dock staff and other drivers about how clean my cab is inside. Again, I don’t put much effort into it, I just don’t get it dirty in the first place.

I also drive with consideration towards other road users, which seems to be a thing of the past in far too many cases where truck drivers are concerned. I quite often see trucks parked in stupid places, usually when there is a Timmies nearby. Trucks are abandoned wherever they will fit, verges are torn up and usually filled with the debris from the previous Timmies visit.

Then there’s the on-road behaviour: trucks running in the left lane through cities, often having a progressive shifting drag race with another loaded truck. All they succeed in doing is annoying everyone else on the road. Most four-wheelers are using their vehicle because it’s faster than taking the bus or walking, but follow a couple of drag racing Super-Bs through a stretch with lots of stoplights and that may not be the case.

Now throw some weather into the mix and it all starts getting much worse. This winter I ran out west all season and I’ve witnessed some shocking behaviour. One time I was heading east out of Regina, it had been snowing all night, the roads were in good shape, but the left lane was covered with a few inches of powder. The wind was blowing from the north, so taking the left lane to pass was going to white-out the slower vehicle. I was aware of this, so when I approached a bunch of vehicles doing 100 km/h, I knocked it back a couple of clicks and stayed in line. I was travelling a little faster, but a few clicks wouldn’t make much of a difference and, like I said, taking the left lane would white everyone out, so that dictated a slower speed than I would’ve liked.

As this was happening, the truck behind me kept getting closer and closer. It then tailgated me for a good while, one minute in my left mirror, the next in my right, so close to me that he couldn’t position himself properly on the road. Then I saw his turn signal and he took the left lane and started to come alongside me. It was an Ontario truck, so limited to a few clicks faster than the speed everyone else on the road was doing, but that wasn’t fast enough for the driver – his truck would do 105 km/h and he was going to do 105 km/h whether it killed him, or anyone else for that matter.

Of course I was completely blinded as he got his truck in front of me. By the time I could see again, the half-tonne in front of me was consumed by the big white cloud and I had no idea where it was. I just could not see it and the reason why I couldn’t soon became apparent – it was in the ditch. Totally blinded by the snow, the driver had lost all sense of positioning and drifted to the right. Luckily they got it back on the road, the wide open prairie winds had blown most of the snow from the ditches.

The truck, which belonged to one of Canada’s biggest carriers, carried on in the left lane and caused chaos as he slowly passed everybody. By the time he had got around the bunch that were previously nicely spaced out and cruising safely at 100 km/h, everyone was bunched up and doing 60 km/h at most. Nice one, driver, I hope that few seconds you saved were worth it.

Here’s another story of white-out conditions: a friend recently let a driver go after he ended up in the median in a blizzard. It wasn’t the incident itself that caused the guy to be fired, it was his recollection of events. In his words, he was driving down the freeway in a total white-out and couldn’t see past the hood of the tractor unit. When he came upon a four-wheeler doing 40 km/h, he had to swerve to avoid it and that’s how he ended up in the ditch, it was the four-wheeler’s fault for going too slow.

Is it any wonder we are struggling to attract youngsters into our industry when public perception of truck drivers is based on incidents like those and the general feeling amongst people that deal with us on a regular basis is that we’re a bunch of dirty, scruffy animals who fill the countryside with garbage when we’re not trying to make people late for work or kill them with our bad driving?

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  • I’m 6’2″ and 220lbs., so it has been eons since I was anywhere in the neighborhood of thin. But the first time I met my Trucker Buddy class they all said that I was skinny for a truck driver! I had to wonder what image they had in their heads to come to that conclusion.

  • WOW !! mark your all that and a bag of chips, If i got paid like a professinal should get paid i might think about your exceptional manners and your attire, when your getting paid by the PC mile these practices you talk about are hard to practice, I’ve been trucking as an 0/0 for 26 years and i dont recommend this line of work to anybody, also if the EOBR becomes manditory my career is over and i know lots of other 0/0 that will pack it in also, in the year 2013 why would anydody want to get into this OVER REGULATED buisness called trucking?