If you go to a truck stop and interview multiple truck drivers and ask the question, “What do you think is the biggest problem in trucking today?” You are likely to get a pretty wide variety of answers. Answers like ELD’s, HOS, Pay, Home time, Lack of respect, Lack of freight, Over regulated, Driver training, No parking, Speed limiters, Electronic gadgets, CARB, Tolls, Taxes, Insurance, and the list goes on. All of these are definitely issues of concern. I believe there is one issue almost no one will say that is likely to be the biggest problem we have industry wide. That issue is The Lack of Self Governance.
To explain further what I mean by this, let me start by throwing out a few numbers. Although some of these numbers are speculative, the conclusion is the same. The population of the United States is about 319 million. About 137 million are registered voters. About 40-60% of those vote. That’s 55-82 million people. We currently have between 3-3.2 million drivers. Almost all of truck drivers are eligible to vote. That means that truck drivers make up 3.7-5.5% of all eligible voters.
With these numbers in mind, we have 435 representatives in congress and 100 senators. If you take an average, that would be 7,125 voters per congressman and 31,000 per senator. By now the picture should be getting clearer. These are numbers too large to be ignored! We have the power to set the language of the discussion if we will participate. This goes to the root of the topic. If you acknowledge these numbers as being possible, then look at how many are really engaged, you start to get to the real problem. I have no numbers to support how many drivers are proactive but if I had to guess, it would be less than 10% really ever engage their representatives.
Now, go back and add a second question to ask of drivers. “Have you contacted your representatives about this problem?” The overwhelming answer is NO. Our representatives are the only people that can cause real changes to happen. Without our voices, all they hear are the voices of the special interests that are very well funded and omnipresent. Right now, they are the people with our representatives ears. We can change that! The only thing more feared than a financial contributor is a negative popular opinion and a risk of loosing the next election.
That pretty much sums up the big picture of our situation. Now let’s look at the same issue (Lack of Self Governance) on a more personal level. We (drivers) have been told that “We are the captains of our ships.” The final decision is up or us. Every driver will reach a time when you have to decide between what you know is right or what you should do versus what someone else wants you to do. At that moment, that is where the reason of self governance should be applied. Safety should be the first priority of every driver on the road, not money nor favor.
There are countless pressures on us to bend the rules or push a little farther or run a little over weight and so on almost daily. Dispatchers may want you to drive longer than you have left on your day to make a delivery. This is where we fail to train drivers the importance of their decisions. Sometimes fear of retribution from the employer causes us to make the wrong choices. If you work for that kind of employer, you need to protect yourself by finding a different job as soon as possible. These types will not have your back in any type of challenge if it costs them at all.
Many of the rules we have today started out with the purpose of protecting the driver. Examples of this are HOS and log books and equipment inspections. If we, the driver, have enough courage to stand up and tell others what we will not do, the need for many regulations would never arise. Some drivers have been in the news lately that have refused to operate faulty equipment and lost their jobs. These drivers have been rewarded with settlements in law suits and the respect of drivers across the land. These are drivers that are self regulated. They are professionals. They will not do the wrong thing when it jeopardizes safety for them or the public.
Finally, in summation, it is up to us how we operate and what the face of our industry looks like. We can choose to paint that picture for ourselves or we can let others paint that picture for us. Either way, it will be painted. I urge every driver to step up their game a little bit everyday and be the examples to newer drivers. We can restore reason to our industry if we get involved by practicing self governance.