December already. Can you believe it? As another year draws to a close, many of us will be taking stock of the past year and planning for the next.
I visited the DriveTest facility here in London the other day and there was a tractor-trailer parked in front of the building along with a group of three drivers waiting to take their road tests.
I couldn’t help but wonder what their expectations regarding their new career may be?
Who will orient them in their new careers? Will they receive ongoing training? How will they be treated in the first few months? The first few years?
Where will they be 10 years from now? Will they even make it past the first year? I certainly asked myself those questions 12 years ago.
Changing careers in mid-life is a traumatic experience. That experience has helped me to recognize that we never know exactly where our individual paths will lead us in this life.
Sometimes the years lay ahead of us like a strip of prairie highway on a clear day.
At other times that same road is covered in a thick fog blinding us to the opportunities and pitfalls that lay ahead.
As a 25-year-old, I never envisioned myself as a long-haul truck driver at age 50. So as I close out another calendar year and move forward into my 51st, it’s a great time to look at where I have been and where I am heading within the industry.
The big question is, can I make any long-term plans for the future in this day and age?
The idea of working for one company for a lifetime is no longer in the cards.
That was my expectation back in the 70s; a long and rewarding career with the same company, a comfortable ‘middle class’ life, followed by a comfortable retirement. Unfortunately I never took into account the fact that nothing in this life is permanent.
The best thing that ever happened to me is that my life was turned upside down in 1998 -although I did not think that it was such a good thing at the time.
The career I had planned through to retirement was over and I was left scrambling to find a new career, a new income, a new lifestyle.
That’s the school of hard knocks. I graduated from that school into the trucking industry bringing along with me the knowledge that change is imminent and the pace of that change is exponential as we move into the future.
So in the fall of 1998 I entered truck driving school and started my first job in the late winter of 1999. Trucking still possessed elements of the Wild West at that time.
Business was booming, drivers were in great demand, and the money was flowing pretty freely. Logbooks were a reality, but not a focus, and I was taught how to “manage” my book.
It was all about how many miles you could run in a week when I first started and the gravy train was never going to end. I always remember this line from my first year: “There’s the ministry way and then there’s the industry way.” As I said above, change is imminent.
In the last 10 years I have experienced a huge shift in attitude and behaviour within the industry. I believe all of the changes we are seeing such as CSA 2010, the move toward mandating EOBRs, changes to HoS rules, and the move towards focusing on a driver’s quality of life issues (health, fitness, home time, etc.) are driven by that shift in attitude.
That attitude shift is one towards safety and compliance on the part of enforcement agencies and carriers but too often it has been presented to me at the end of a big stick and I have rarely been presented with a carrot that is worth chasing.
In other words, they’re saying change your behaviour or I’ll punish you.
A ticket, an audit, a new disciplinary plan, and so on.
Performance on the job is about job skills 15% of the time and about attitude, or behaviour, 85% of the time.
When it comes to adapting to change and modifying our behaviour, we all respond much better to the carrot than we do to the stick. I believe carriers are quickly waking up to this fact and the next 10 years have the potential to be very positive from a driver’s perspective.
We have to play our part by communicating and criticizing constructively.
A driver’s behaviour, attitude, and overall performance is by no means the sole responsibility of the carrier.
I’m ready for the new year and looking forward to it. How about you?