Voice of the O/O: Looking in the mirror; the importance of professionalism

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If you keep up on truck transportation issues by reading Canada’s trade publications on a regular basis, you will undoubtedly have noticed a trend in articles that speak to the need for “raising the bar” of professionalism in the industry.

More than ever before, writers and truckers alike are highlighting the very real connection between our conduct and public perception of who and what we are, and the enormous part this ultimately plays in affecting the leverage we wield at the bargaining table. A sobering thought indeed!

As a working veteran of the industry, and a “wet behind the ears” writer, I’ve focused my first couple of columns on the industry’s growing intolerance of substandard conduct by some.

On the one hand, you have thousands of truckers, many of them contributing huge amounts of time and effort (not to mention money) to the seemingly endless task of advocating a better future for all stakeholders, and using professionalism as the supporting argument in advocacy’s defense. On the other hand, there remain those whose careless attitude toward the trade continues to undermine efforts to bring about change.

Neither as a trucker nor as a writer will I ever make allowances for this core group of individuals who insist on dismissing the connection between professional conduct and tangible progress in bringing about a better future for the industry.

While they can be influential – in a negative way – the good news is, they’re a shrinking lot.

When newcomers to trucking are handed their shiny new Class 1 driver’s licence and have logged their first few thousand kilometres, they begin to think of themselves as professional drivers by right of license and employment.

This is okay, provided those drivers enter the business with an attitude of remaining vigilant about their conduct at all times and prepared to adjust it here and there accordingly, whether it be in the area of driving habits or just friendly, courteous, interaction with customers or the public.

After all, professional status is not acquired by right – it is earned through the development of proper attitude.

So let’s take a look at the area most responsible for the motoring public’s negative image of the industry – our driving habits. As sharing the highways of the country accounts for the lion’s share of our day-to-day interaction with the public, one could easily argue that recognizing poor driving habits and taking the necessary action to correct them would be the single most effective method of dealing with this problem.

At some point in time, we were all “newcomers” who had learned the right way to do things.

This knowledge never really leaves us, so ignorance of good driving practices is no defence.

So why do we continue to disregard the toll sloppy driving habits are taking on the public’s perception of who we are?

In a word, attitude.

Take the driver with the loaded Super B-train trying to pass the other loaded Super B-train on a short section of double lane in the mountains. If he/she hesitated for a moment, and thought about the seven or eight cars that are about to pile up behind as a result of his/her thoughtlessness and unprofessional attitude, how much better, and safer, to stay in line, than to create seven or eight new anti-truck activists all in one selfish act?The benefits of improving and maintaining a professional attitude in terms of how we drive on public roadways, as well as in many other areas of our daily work, are far-reaching.

The payback for a day filled with good attitude is respect. And speaking of respect – we could all be a bit more tolerant in doling out respect to the so-called “four wheelers” we share the road with. After all, we perceive them to be the amateurs and consider ourselves to be the professionals. We should leave the speeding, tailgating, and other such irresponsible actions up to the amateurs, while we, as pros, remain in charge of setting the examples.

The respect we garner from safe and courteous driving habits will stand us in good stead when we sit across the table from government and industry leaders dealing with issues such as safety, driver education, hours of service, and so on, and will go a long way toward trumping other hands at the table.

I challenge all professional drivers in Canada to give themselves a little test. Write down all the bad driving habits that have crept into your routine over time, and then systematically work on them, one at a time, catching yourself when you stray off course. And remember – this is the way your company, your family, and your conscience expect you to drive. So why do it any other way?

My list is complete. How’s yours coming along?

– Don Robertson is vice president of OBAC. He can be reached at drobertson@obac.ca

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