The image of the trucking industry is one of those topics that has been discussed by those inside the industry for as long as I can remember. When I first started driving 28 years ago, the CB chatter was full of talk about the image of the driver, how it wasn’t like it was in the good ol’ days, that drivers were not as good as they used to be, and how no one respected the job a driver did. This topic, along with the driver shortage, is one that never seems to go away.
Perception is reality as they say, and if the profession of a driver is considered a job of last resort to those who are outside of the industry, then to them, that is reality. Some of the reasons for this poor image are of our own doing and have to do with the way some companies in our industry treat drivers, and the way they operate their businesses.
We have heard for years how drivers will get to a shipper’s or receiver’s location and not be allowed to use their facilities, and in some instances, there is not even a portapotty for them to use. Good carriers who respect their drivers will never allow this to occur and will ensure the issue is resolved or stop doing business with those customers.
We all know there are carriers out there who encourage their drivers to break the hours-of-service rules to get a load delivered on time, and those same carriers are the ones who will not pay their drivers for waiting time or any other time the wheels are not turning. Why? They undercut bids of a compliant carrier and try to make ends meet by placing the burden and sacrifice on the drivers to make the load profitable. These same types of business practices are also what keep rates down, and in turn keep profits down for carriers, and pay down for drivers.
Currently, we have an explosion of the Driver Inc. model. Let’s be blunt and call this what it is; we all know the majority of the examples out there today using this model are not legitimate. If the company owns the truck, pays all the bills for that truck, supplies you with all your work and directs your every move, you are an employee, plain and simple.
To say you are an independent contractor just because you incorporate yourself is bull, and we all know it. It is just an illegal scheme to avoid paying taxes by the carrier and the driver. This practice must be stopped, and we all need to be part of stopping it. If you know of a carrier using it illegally, report them. There are some in the industry justifying using this model by saying that is the only way they can compete. If this is your tagline, you are part of the problem, not the solution. Breaking the law is never justified.
If these problems exist inside our industry, and we know about it and talk about it, these issues and concerns will make it to those outside our industry. It is our job to correct these problems.
As a driver, it is your job to act professionally, respect yourself, your fellow drivers, and the industry. If you work for a carrier who doesn’t stand up for your rights, leave. There are plenty of carriers out there who will treat you right and respect you. Help them stay in business, not the non-compliant ones.
If you are the majority of the carriers out there who do things properly, follow the rules, respect your drivers and stand up for their rights, advertise it and use it as part of your recruiting strategy, both inside and outside of the industry.
There are too many great people in this industry, and too many great fleets and drivers in the industry to let ourselves get dragged down by the minority, who have no respect for the rest of the industry. Let’s weed them out, take ownership of our industry, and make sure the general public knows how great a career path this industry can provide for them if they choose wisely when they enter.