Respect has to be earned

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My previous column, “Stop the Stupid Scorpion” seems to have resonated with many of our readers who drive truck for a living.

For those of you who haven’t read it yet, I told the fable about the scorpion who asked a frog to swim him across the river. When the frog asked what assurance he would have the scorpion wouldn’t sting him halfway into the river crossing, the scorpion replied: ‘Why would I do that? I would drown with you.’ And yet, sure enough, right in the middle of the river, the scorpion stings the frog, and both die as a consequence.

I used the fable as an analogy of how stupid we have been in trying to solve the driver shortage the past 20 years. I questioned: Can you really call it a driver shortage when driver turnover is so high?

From the e-mails and phone calls I received, it seems many drivers out there know exactly what I’m talking about. As one wrote: “Many companies increase the recruiting staff instead of listening to drivers’ needs.”

Another with several years of driving experience, including seven with his current employer, wrote to say he is looking to get out of the profession altogether. Why? Because after making “the big mistake” of agreeing to become an owner/operator for the company, he finds himself with his savings depleted and having to cash in RRSPs just to keep paying the bills. He’s shocked at the difference between what he believes he was promised he would make and what he is actually making – and the lack of response he’s getting from his employer.

We do have to be careful not to over-generalize. Research shows driver turnover is much more prevalent among long-haul fleets than in other sectors and that the situation is worse among US carriers than Canadian. And I’ve come to know many fleet executives over the years who treat their drivers with absolute respect. At the same time, I’ve met some drivers and owner/operators I wouldn’t want on my team.

But the comments shown above are not out of place with industry reality. I hear them all the time. As another driver mentioned, the scorpion stings the frog because “it’s in his nature.”

I sure hope that’s not true of our industry, but it appears this is not a problem unique to North America. PwC surveyed 1,344 business leaders across 68 countries around the world, including 101 transportation and logistics company CEOs, in the last quarter of 2013. A shortage of talent was one of their top concerns. Transportation and logistics CEOs overwhelmingly agree they’ll need to change their talent strategies to cope with future trends, according to the survey. But just 19% are already doing so, compared to a third of CEOs across the overall sample and only 30% believe their HR departments are well-prepared.

I had a boss a long time ago who informed me one day that he DEMANDED respect from his staff. I was in my mid-20s at the time but still had enough pluck to inform him that respect has to be EARNED. That ass of a boss is long gone thankfully and I still abide by what I said to him 25 years ago.

If we want to solve the driver shortage and attract new entrants we have to gain the drivers’ respect. Seems we have a long road ahead of us.

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Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.

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  • Hi Lou
    Right on! There’s nothing like a “Desk Jockey, office worker or SUIT” to tell a proffessional driver how to do their job.
    Just look at the problems the over 65 rule caused.
    When someone has over 30 years behind the wheel with a clear record & medical, who has a right to try and shut them out of their job.

    Keep up the good work,

    Bev Plummer
    Prof Driver Ret