R-E-S-P-E-C-T where it’s due

by Bruce Richards

Respect for individuals in business is difficult to earn. Usually it develops over a long period of time and is most often the result of attributes such as consistent performance, exceeding expectations, demonstrating integrity, and the respect that is shown for others.

Of course, some people gain instant respect from one-off examples of bravery or selflessness, charitable activities, etc., but most respect is earned over the long haul.

This applies not only to the way people are viewed in their personal lives but, increasingly, in the way they are viewed in the workplace.

Once a person loses the respect of colleagues in the business community it is very difficult to regain it.

There have been many examples of individuals who, with one misstep, or with an ongoing series of missteps, have ruined their business as well as personal reputations. They usually disappear from the landscape, sometimes to spend some time at ‘her Majesty’s pleasure,’ and sometimes just to simply live with the ignominy.

But how does it happen that respect is lost for almost an entire category of workers in a particular industry such as trucking? Even, as it is well known, when those workers are essential to the economy, and to helping to maintain the lifestyle that we all enjoy.

But that’s the case for the position of truck driver and how it is often viewed by those outside of the industry. At least by those who give it any thought at all.

Despite remarkably excellent, consistent, and statistically proven safety performance, truck drivers generally garner little respect from the public. Perhaps the public takes their lead in this from a government that considers the position to be ‘unskilled.’

Unless you are in this business in some capacity and have an inkling of the skill required to operate today’s high-tech trucks through all of the on-road risks and demanding schedules encountered every day, it’s far too easy to group truck drivers under a single heading and dismiss the job as one that individuals fall into by default.

Now, we’re not suggesting that this is a new complaint. The trucking industry generally, and our drivers in particular, have lived on the edges of society’s disapproval for as long as we’ve been around. Way back in the day when those running the Teamsters Union in the US were linked by the government and press to organized crime and pension fund issues, all members of that union were tainted. It wasn’t fair, but it happened.

While it’s unlikely that today’s truck drivers are still tarred with that legacy, neither do they enjoy the respect of the general public for the job that they do, the respect they deserve.

And yet despite the view of the populace, people in the industry know how important these drivers are, and the industry as a whole takes pains to celebrate the best of the best through its many award programs. PMTC’s Hall of Fame for Professional Drivers is but one example of the way in which the industry recognizes skill and professionalism in the world of commercial driving, and there are many other examples.

But outside of the industry drivers attract very little in the way of positive recognition – and a good deal of negative press whenever an opportunity arises.

Now, you might be wondering why I’m venting on this subject once again, so let me explain.

In the Aug. 27 issue of the Toronto Star newspaper, which claims a circulation of around two million (good for first place in Canada) there was a small piece with a headline that read “Trucker declared dangerous offender.”

A quick read of the story revealed that an individual had indeed been declared a dangerous offender in a Toronto courtroom and will be jailed indefinitely due to a violent history that included attempted murder, choking, robbery, and forcible confinement.

Along with a listing of the crimes involved, the article’s writer thought it necessary to report that the individual worked as a truck driver, although that same writer failed to offer any connection between his job as truck driver and the crimes committed by this person, or failed to describe how the job of driving a truck had or has anything whatsoever to do with such abhorrent behaviour.

It begs the question that had this criminal been a plumber, an electrician, a roofer, or a dentist, for example, would his choice of profession have been used so prominently in the headline? Would it have been seen by the newspaper’s editor to be germane in any way to the story being reported?

The answer is pretty obvious. Of course being a truck driver has no relationship to the charges faced by this particular individual, nor one assumes, did it have any bearing on the court’s subsequent decision to declare him a dangerous offender.

But notwithstanding the fact that the job of truck driving has no relevance to the story being reported, someone felt it necessary to include the information.

It is just one more example of a lack of respect for the role of the truck driver and newspapers jumping on a tired bandwagon that continues the anti-truck driver theme so often found in the popular press.

This column isn’t meant as a love-in piece for truck drivers. We’ve got our share of bad apples, but fortunately they are far outnumbered by the professionals. It’s simply a plea for R-E-S-P-E-C-T where it’s due.


The Private Motor Truck Council is the only national association dedicated to the private trucking community. Direct comments and questions to trucks@pmtc.ca.

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