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The principles of professionalism

Last month I expounded on what I viewed as a particular problem among Canadian truck drivers, namely tailgating. In the midst of complaining about the lack of proper driving skills I eluded to the nee...


Last month I expounded on what I viewed as a particular problem among Canadian truck drivers, namely tailgating. In the midst of complaining about the lack of proper driving skills I eluded to the need for more professionalism.

While reflecting on that last installment, I have been forced to ask myself the question; what exactly is professionalism and how, specifically, does one implement it in their everyday career?

Anyone could, upon reflection, list a number of qualities that could effectively be described as “professional,” however my goal here is to explore what is “behind” the actions of the professional. In other words, what exactly separates a professional from just another super trucker?

The key element forming the dividing line when it comes to piloting a rig down the road is motivation. One must ask, Why am I here?

Are you driving simply to pay the bills, to impress your girlfriend, because your old man did, or because your councilor at community college told you in a derogatory tone that you would, never amount to more than a truck driver?

Or are you out driving a truck because you not only want to pay your bills, but you desire to do it in style? Not only do you find it inconceivable to pursue another career, you actually thrive on the open road – and the many difficult challenges that await you on a daily basis.

It was once said that a great truck driver is born, not made. There is truth in that statement because true professional truck drivers, the best drivers out there, actually want to be there. If motivation is purely financial, short-term employment, or simply passing the time, it will be demonstrated in your actions.

However, if you indeed want to be on the open road and agree with the phrase, there is no such thing as an ex-trucker, regardless of one’s occupation, then you are well on your way to being a professional.

Once a person reflects upon the motivation for pursuing a goal, they realize indeed it dictates the very thoughts surrounding his/her actions. A driver who wants to be behind the wheel running 500 horses, strapped to the front of 23 tonnes will, in due time, put thought into their actions. The great thing about the open road is that it provides much time for thought and reflection. The bad thing about the open road is that it provides much time for thought and reflection.

A true professional will use the time to think about the big picture; is it more important to meet dispatch’s unreasonable demands, and not get any sleep tonight, or does the safety of myself and the people around me take precedence?

A professional will constantly mull their motivation, emotions and actions and how they can be improved; what was it about that four-wheeler’s actions that caused me to get upset? What can I do next time to react more favorably?

Once a person is motivated to be a professional, they will put considerable thought into how they can be the best truck driver they can. After time spent reflecting, a professional will change his actions in order to create good habits. Not only good driving habits, but also good social, emotional and wellness habits, too.

Because ultimately all of these areas of one’s life can have a dramatic effect on a driving career, and may even have a greater impact upon an owner/operator.

It is in the habit-forming arena that experience holds the most water. Though experience is not required to have a professional attitude, it is safe to say that the more experience a driver has, the greater the chance they are exhibiting the characteristics of a professional.

Three habits that are key to determining a professional are humility, patience, and confidence in one’s ability.

If the “air” surrounding a truck driver is that of bravado and super trucker syndrome then they likely aren’t as seasoned or as professional as they claim. Regardless, if the pupil is willing or reluctant one thing that driving a truck for millions of miles does is teach humility, patience and confidence.

It should be noted that the “ideal” of professionalism is in actual practicality a continuum or time line if you will, with all drivers at different points along the continuum. At one end would be poor attitude, inexperience, terrible driving skill and a know-it-all nature. At the other end would be extreme patience, a desire to not attract attention while driving, an understanding attitude, a willingness to admit and apologize for one’s mistakes, and an eagerness to forgive your fellow drivers for theirs.

Professionalism is not just participating in the right actions at the right time, but rather has more to do with the very fibre of an individual person.

Who you are as a person will ultimately be reflected in your actions.

Anyone can teach you to drive a truck … but only you can decide to be a professional.

Dave Holleman is an over-the-road owner/operator and can be reached at daveholleman@aol.com.

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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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