Although I have used the description myself, I’m tiring of truck driving being promoted as a “lifestyle.” Trucking is a field of specialized training (profession) not a set of attitudes (lifestyle), in my opinion. Or is it both? For every truck driver you talk to and ask the question, “Is truck driving a lifestyle, a profession, or both?” you will receive a different interpretation unique to the individual’s circumstances and personal values.
A huge problem that we face as professional drivers is that we don’t have a broad set of standards under one umbrella around which we can coalesce. Unlike the carriers we work for, we don’t have an organization that represents our profession. We are fragmented and spend far too much energy focusing on our differences surrounding lifestyle issues rather than focusing on the skills we all share and the social issues we all face.
There are some great examples of drivers coming together on social media to address industry-wide issues. One of those issues is driver training and mentorship.
Shelley Uvenile-Hesch is a long-haul driver for Sharp Transportation. Through her persistence and tenacity she has brought to life a non-profit named the Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada. It started a few years ago with a will to expand the employment of women across the Canadian trucking industry.
Through Shelley’s membership in Facebook groups and her dogged determination, she built a following that led to the incorporation of WTFC in early March of this year.
A group of six full-time drivers form the WTFC board. With a focus on co-operation, positive attitudes, and a desire to build relationships across all lines – drivers, carriers, government, training organizations, vocational schools, other social media groups, etc. – professional drivers are coming together to share their knowledge with new recruits and renew the camaraderie that so many seasoned drivers have been pining for over the past few decades.
This is a great example of how drivers can come together to share our common skills and experiences. This organization is not designed to represent drivers but to empower them. WTFC challenges the authoritarian model that the trucking industry has developed over the years. In essence, it presents a new paradigm of problem solving from the bottom up rather than the top down.
WTFC is a great example of how all drivers can come together under the skills umbrella to better their profession, but what about working conditions or as we have come to know it the lifestyle of trucking? Where have we been and where are we going? Alfy Meyer digs in to this topic on his Web site TheIntrepidTrucker.com with a post titled Caught Between a Paradox and a Paradigm: Why the Trucking Industry is Doomed to Collapse in 10 Years.
With almost four decades driving experience Alfy provides us with a wonderful snapshot of where we have come from. You should take a look.
It’s important to realize that the issues we face surrounding driver pay, overtime, waiting time, compliance with regulations, and health issues are not unique to the trucking industry. Movements such as Occupy highlight the difficulties faced by the majority of citizens today.
There is constant pressure around the issue of profit for large corporations versus equity for people. It really is the issue of our times. Coming together around this issue is far more difficult because of our individual political, religious, and cultural differences.
So I come back to my opening statement about the so-called trucking lifestyle. It’s as if we wear the hardships we face as drivers like a badge of honour.
We are pushed to accept the long hours and often poor working conditions as the status quo. How often have your complaints about an ongoing issue like driver waiting time, lack of safe parking, or 60-plus hour workweeks without overtime compensation, been addressed with a comment such as, “Well, that’s just trucking?”
Many drivers today will simply say if you don’t like it find another line of work. Sub-standard working conditions have become the norm for many drivers in this industry because that is all they have ever known.
As a result this poor treatment has become institutionalized. The trucking lifestyle.
So we are seeing drivers becoming energized around skills issues and showing that we are the natural leaders in the training process because of the incredible depth of our experience. That sharing of common knowledge and skills leads to a strengthening of the camaraderie amongst drivers that combats the differences in our cultural, ethnic, and political differences. We need organizations like WTFC that empower us to come together and push the driver agenda forward. But we also need the veterans like Alfy Meyer to remind us of where we came from and what we need to aspire to.
Al Goodhall has been a professional long-haul driver since 1998. He shares his experiences via his ‘Over the Road’ blog at http://truckingacrosscanada.blogspot.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @Al_Goodhall.
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