Let’s give thanks to the truck driving Neanderthals

by Mark Lee

Last month, I wrote about possible ways of attracting and retaining drivers. But it’s a two-way street, so this month I’ll address the driver. As drivers, we can’t take without giving a little something back, not if we want a long-term solution.

I inhabit two different worlds; one when I am at work and one when I’m not. In one world I’m subjected to the worst in people, bad attitudes, bad language, bad food and I’m generally treated as a second-class citizen. In the other, I’m not. I bet you can guess which world is which.

My biggest problem with this is not so much what I experience; it is why I experience it and from whom I experience it. I may get a frosty reception from shippers and receivers or the person at the fuel desk once in a while, but far and away the worst offenders are my fellow drivers.

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine you’re in a truck stop or at a shipper/receiver; far too many of the people around you will be scruffy obnoxious loudmouths, no matter how decent your own behaviour. These are the people who will influence others’ opinions of truck drivers. It is the same for any experience; the bad ones are far more memorable than the good ones.

Drivers moan that they don’t get treated well and for the most part that is true. But sadly, far too often, they’re their own worst enemy. They expect to be treated as professionals, yet they’re not prepared to play the part. They don’t show any professionalism when they’re in the company of their fellow drivers, so you know for sure that they are not doing it when they’re dealing with civilians.

We have drivers who don’t have the courtesy to pull through the fuel pumps when they’ve pumped fuel to allow the next driver to fuel up. The worst offenders will often be found getting something to eat from a fast food joint while the poor guy behind waits in line.

They wash spilled diesel fuel from their tanks with the window squeegees; the next driver to use it ends up with oil over his windows. They throw pee bottles and worse from their truck into parking lots and customer premises; they treat washrooms as if they were wild animals. They are just as bad to each other. Just try asking a question on the CB radio, for every helpful answer you’ll get abused 10 times. The list goes on and on.

There are also drivers out there that wake up, fill out a log book and leave without doing a pre-trip inspection; they have no idea of the condition of their equipment, not until they get placed out-of-service at the next scale.

They also pay no attention to speed limits and complain about being ripped off when they get a ticket. They mouth off in truck stops, telling anyone within earshot about how they told dispatch or the shipper/receiver this or that. Everyone they deal with gets subjected to their belligerent attitudes, and yet they are surprised when they don’t get the red carpet treatment.

These people are dragging the rest of us down. I saw this happen in Europe and now because of the behaviour of the few, everyone over there suffers. Over there, when you arrive at a shipper/receiver you check in through a small hole in the wall. They got sick of dealing with drivers face to face.

They don’t allow you wait in your truck; they keep you in a little waiting room. That way they don’t have to clean up the mess that gets dumped out the truck windows. People got sick and tired of having their washrooms trashed, so the facility doesn’t exist anymore. Drivers are not allowed to use break rooms or canteens because staff do not want to hear the bad language – again the list goes on and on.

We’re better than that – the vast majority of us. I’m assuming that you, the reader, are too. After all, you’re reading this so you have a bit of an interest in our industry. But the minority are spoiling it for us, or are they? As the driver shortage crisis deepens the better drivers will become more valuable, switched on companies will want to keep their better drivers and others will offer a premium to attract them. In some ways the Neanderthals are the best thing to happen to us, so instead of shaking your head at their obscene behaviour, silently thank them, as they make your professionalism, and therefore value, stand out even more.

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