Have you ever been asked to complete a survey?Okay, that was a rhetorical question.
We are all regularly inundated with requests that we complete surveys on all manner of topics: which newspapers we read and why?; what do we think of the services provided by the cities or towns in which we live?; are we in favour of a nuclear energy plant in our neighbourhood?
As often as not, these surveys arrive through the postal system despite the ‘No Junk Mail Please’ notices that we post on the box. (I wonder when a spam filter for postal deliveries will be invented?)
And there are the telephone surveyors who want to elicit our opinion on the state of the economy or your views on current affairs. Of course if you’re really lucky there is a trip to Florida on offer if you answer a few questions.
Now, if you are like me, for the most part the paper-based surveys that arrive at home end up in the blue box on collection day, while the telephoned approaches engender a polite (as polite as I can be on a Tuesday night at supper time, or during Saturday morning’s leisurely breakfast), “Thanks, but I’m not interested,” type of response.
I simply can’t generate enough enthusiasm about most of these issues to make me take the time to express my views (assuming I even have one) to strangers and I’m certain I’m not alone in my thinking on this one.
Recently, with a fairly innovative approach, one such survey that arrived at home included a twonie that I was invited to use to ‘enjoy a cup of coffee while I answered the questionnaire.’ Well, it was a nice touch, but as it happens, I don’t drink coffee and in any event the time it would have taken to answer all the survey questions would have required more than one cup of anything.
At the office, there is no end of consultants calling for information about the industry, and they all want it for free. They, in turn, sell that information to their respective clients, so as much as I understand that everyone needs to eat, I seldom respond to those folks on principle.
But -and there always is a but -sometimes we’ve just got to participate. Information is critical when you work in an industry as diverse and dynamic as trucking, with its enormous economic and social impact. The ability to analyze such industries is critical to industry watchers, to investors, to suppliers, and particularly to government. And include in that list the associations to which you belong that need to gather statistics and to understand members’ views on a variety of subjects. Effective analysis requires sound information and the source of that information is the people who work in the industry.
I’m not suggesting that anyone offer up privileged information such as a company’s revenues or customer contact lists. I’m referring to more generic information that would help shed light on the demographic of an industry such as ours. And there is value in that information.
For example, absent a clear picture of the magnitude and importance of the trucking industry, there would be little reason for government to support proposals for regulatory change, or initiatives designed to improve conditions and help the industry prosper.
Fortunately, many in the trucking community do respond to industry-related surveys from responsible parties. The information gathered has, in many cases, been used to drive improvements. Some examples are the surveys conducted by the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council. Over the years these surveys have identified needs for improved training for entry-level and professional drivers, dispatchers, and owner/operators. That in turn led to support from the federal government for the development of training tools that the industry had identified as critical.
Without solid information on the impact of trucking on the economy as a first step, I doubt that the support mentioned above would have been made available. Once the value of the industry was established, the door opened a little to allow us to express what we needed if the industry is to remain effective in providing the services Canadians have come to expect.
Another type of survey is the one that consolidates information on operational best practices. If adopted more broadly, these best practices could make the trucking industry even more effective than it is today, which in turn would make it interesting to the bright and energetic young people that we want to attract for our future. These are the types of surveys that PMTC periodically conducts among private fleets because we, and the participants, think the results are helpful at ground level.
We know that in the private trucking community, fleet operators are willing to share information on operational practices with each other. Since these fleets don’t generally compete on a trucking level and since they are all looking for ways to make operations more efficient and effective, sharing information and ideas on best practices is actually good for everyone.
So, if it sounds like I’ve come full circle on the subject of surveys, that’s only partly the case. I’ll still ditch the ones that don’t matter to me, but I will definitely pay attention to those that can help move the industry forward.
-The Private Motor Truck Council is the only national association dedicated to the private trucking community. Direct comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.