I can be pretty thick-skinned about a lot of things. Call me any name in the book. It’s been done, and doesn’t really bother me anymore. Everybody has an opinion, and if yours differs from mine, then fire off the insults with both barrels. We’ll all get over it when we cool off. There’s one sure-fire way to get under my skin though – and I never get over it – and it happens in this industry a lot: Lie to me.
Liars have a special place on my list: the bottom, and that will never change. I consider lying to be the deepest insult and lack of respect you can show another human being. This is not one of my typical rants against large carriers. They aren’t any guiltier than some small carriers, or drivers. Cozy terms such as ‘little white lie,’ or ‘misled’ still qualify as lies.
Years ago, I applied for a job with a trucking company of about 100 trucks – large, by my standards – and was granted an interview. The recruiter gave me what I considered a ridiculous written test called a ‘Personality Inventory Quiz.’ Even the title was foolish.
It gave numerous scenarios of social or work situations, then asked me to pick the best answer provided.
Depending on which boxes I checked off, the recruiter’s computer would pigeonhole me into a personality type, and reveal what type of worker I would be.
I handed back the test, and told the interviewer I had not answered one particular question because there wasn’t an appropriate answer. Assuming that I just couldn’t read, she read the question to me: “If you had to tell a lie, could you look the person in the eye, or would you avoid eye contact?”
“Exactly,” I said. “There is no answer. Lying is not a necessity, it’s a choice, and a poor one. If I screw up, I’ll have the decency to admit it, and I’d like to think I could expect the same courtesy in return.”
As the temperature dropped in the room at the same rate as her face reddened, I knew the interview was over.
I honestly thought it was a trick question. I was immediately shuffled off to the terminal manager, who explained the run I’d be doing, if hired. It was a convoluted triangle, expected to be completed twice a week. (I’m a very steady runner, and I had no clue how this was going to happen). “Easy run,” he said, “Do it with my eyes closed.”
By the look of the 75-year-old face on a 50-year-old man, I expect he had done just that.
Several years ago, I got a call from a local owner/op, who had only done dry van work. He was a relatively young man, but well north of 400 lbs. Mr. Obvious told me he couldn’t handle tarping, but asked if I would have any flatbed work he could do? I explained that I could keep him busy without ever touching a tarp, but the freight he would be hauling would consist of the worst paying work we had, and I didn’t feel it would be financially sufficient.
I gave him some numbers, and he agreed. Years later, I learned this person was telling his buddies that he had applied for work, but the rates didn’t suit his standards. Technically, this was true; now try telling the whole story.
We once hired an owner/op who lived close to the border we crossed the most frequently.
He was interested in the job, as long as he could periodically be home through the week. Of course he could, so I explained our work schedule: leave Sunday, return late Friday with three trips complete.
Next week, leave Monday, park it Friday morning with two trips complete, then repeat the cycle. Pickup and delivery instructions were
e-mailed for every trip.
After loading on a Friday for a Monday delivery, as specified, I called Sunday evening to see if the border crossing had gone well. No it hadn’t, because he had no intention of leaving home till Monday, instructions be damned.
He claimed to be unaware we ever left on Sunday. His ‘passing through home throughout the week’ also turned into a specific evening every week, until midnight.
He lasted here less than a month. Wouldn’t the truth have prevented a lot of headaches and inconvenience on his part and ours?
So how does this issue affect small trucking companies? Most of us do our own hiring, because we don’t have a specific HR person. Drivers have been lied to so often – and to such extremes – by carriers of all sizes, that they rarely believe anything they’re told, truth or otherwise.
For a few years, 85% of our outbound freight went to the New Jersey or Philadelphia areas. It paid very well, as a regular diet of this part of the country should.
Owner/operators pulling company trailers were earning $2-$2.30 per mile.
Even with rates such as this, we had no more luck with recruitment than previously, or since, because potential hires simply didn’t believe the rates; they had been sucked in by tall tales at other carriers for their whole career, and just assumed this was another fantasy. A little honesty would do us all a world of good.
Bill Cameron and his wife Nancy own and operate Parks Transportation, a four-truck flatdeck trucking company. Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.