sing social media to humiliate others seems to be all the rage these days. I heard an interview on the radio with author/reporter Jon Ronson about his recently published book: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. It really got me thinking about how we treat our fellow drivers.
A few days before I heard the interview I had watched a video of a trucker damage his truck in a manner that was painful to watch. The comment thread attached to the video was nothing short of derisive. There was no shortage of commentary mocking the driver, but only a few comments that tried to get at the root cause of the driver’s actions.
Let me give you a brief outline of the video.
A driver approaches a bridge with a 10-foot clearance on a narrow two-lane road, so he stops. On his right is a four-foot high retaining wall and on his left is a steep embankment. The distance between the two is maybe 40 feet. The video starts with the truck jackknifed across the road. The cab is up the embankment on the left and the rear passenger side of the trailer is jammed against the retaining wall on the right. Despite the fact there is no physical possibility of turning a 53-ft. trailer around in a 40-ft. space, the driver gives it his all. He tears off the front bumper, rips the fairing off the cab on the driver’s side, damages the nose of the trailer and also the rear passenger side of the trailer on the wall. There is debris strewn all over the road. The driver exits the cab and his body language says it all.
He holds his head in both hands and bows up and down as he surveys the damage. You’ve probably heard the expression, ‘If you want to get out of a hole then stop digging.’ This driver finally put down the shovel. I don’t know his story but it seems pretty obvious that he was in over his head and simply panicked in a tough situation.
Even the best truck driver training schools have to graduate students with about 200 hours of training time. The worst schools will graduate students in a fraction of that time.
Think about that in comparison to the past.
Our old-school drivers will tell us about the countless hours they spent shunting trailers in a yard and working on the dock before they even had an opportunity to do a local delivery under supervision.
In the past, most drivers accumulated thousands of hours learning the ins and outs of handling a rig in tight quarters before they took to the open highway. This is why I feel we need a minimum two-year apprenticeship program that gives new drivers the confidence they need to succeed. Obtaining a licence from a high-quality truck driver training academy should be the first step in a driver’s training – not the only step.
Here is the predicament we face today. On one hand, we all recognize that the training methods of the past lead to a successful career and we bemoan the fact that many drivers lack the necessary training to do the job safely. But then we turn around and shame new drivers across social media when they are most in need of a mentor.
A mentor is by definition a wise and trusted counsellor or teacher. Is mentoring becoming a thing of the past in our industry when we need it the most? When videos and pictures are put up online they are put up with a certain intent. We need to move away from shaming drivers for the mistakes they make as our default position and start using social media to share these mistakes as teaching moments.
Although I feel that an apprenticeship program is the best solution, I am not so foolish as to think this will happen overnight – if it even happens at all. But as experienced drivers we can share our wisdom and experience with new and novice drivers through social media. There are some Facebook groups that are doing a great job with this approach. When a group is set up with the intent to bring back the camaraderie and welcome new recruits by encouraging them to participate and ask dumb questions (there is no such thing as a dumb question when it comes to learning new skills) friendships build quickly and the knowledge spreads around the group like wildfire.
It’s a joy to witness.
So the next time you witness one of those “Gotcha!” videos, take the time to try and understand the root cause of the driver’s failure rather than just holding him in contempt. Maybe we can build a better workplace one social media post at a time.
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.